November 6, 2011
Jonathan S. Tobin | @tobincommentary 11.04.2011 - 3:05 PM
Earlier today, I noted the diplomatic “tsunami” that was supposed to engulf Israel as a result of the Palestinian drive to get the United Nations to recognize their independence without first making peace with Israel was fizzling out. They have failed to get the requisite nine votes on the UN Security Council that would even force the United States to veto their request. And now they have waved the white flag on another diplomatic front only days after they won their only success in this campaign.
On Monday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to admit “Palestine” as a member state. But rather than follow up on this victory, the Palestinians have indicated they will not try to win the same recognition from other UN agencies as they had promised earlier in the week. After the Obama administration was forced to obey U.S. law and revoke funding to UNESCO, the Palestinians got a loud message from the rest of the international community: back off. Faced with a choice between gratifying the Palestinian desire to evade the peace process and the prospect of an end to American aid to every UN agency that followed UNESCO’s lead, the Palestinians were told in no uncertain times their little gambit had become too expensive for the world body to tolerate any longer.
The fact that international antipathy to Israel and devotion to the Palestinian cause does not outweigh the monetary considerations of the UN and its Third World cheering section is one important point to be gleaned from this episode. But just as if not more important is that the rapid Palestinian surrender on this issue clearly indicates the correct path for the United States to pursue in countering Arab efforts to avoid recognition of Israel’s existence and to diminish America’s influence in the Middle East.
Rather than seeking to pressure Israel to make further concessions that effectively robs Israel of all of its diplomatic chips prior to negotiations just to entice Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to return to talks, the United States needs to remember that it is still the funder of the PA and the UN and not the other way around. Abbas has been acting for the past few months as if he is doing the United States a favor by allowing it to send him hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, part of which he spends on paying pensions to convicted terrorists, including some of the murderers who were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. But if President Obama wants Abbas to return to the negotiating table that he has spurned over the last three years (including the 10 months when Israel agreed to a 10-month building freeze in the West Bank in order to please the Palestinians), then he need only give him the same message that UNESCO heard loud and clear: that he is about to lose his U.S. taxpayer funded subsidy.
For too long, foreign policy wise men have been telling us it is not feasible for the U.S. to use its financial leverage over both the Palestinians and the UN in order to avoid having its foreign policy objectives thwarted. The Obama administration, which is besotted with the UN and its agencies, has echoed this line. But, though it was against their will, the law requiring Washington to stop giving a cent to UNESCO has proved both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrong.
Rather than continuing a policy of attempted appeasement of the Palestinians and pressure on the Jewish state, it is high time the administration told Abbas the American payola will cease to flow if he continues to refuse to sit down with the Israelis or pushes for UN recognition.
The only question is whether Obama and his foreign policy team are too wedded to their own failed ideology to realize they have just proved, albeit unwillingly, they have the power to make the Palestinians give in.