The US decision to cut off funding for UNESCO is a loss for everyone, except maybe Palestine, for now. The US policy that required these cuts will trigger again if Palestine gains recognition at any other UN organization. These cuts are not in America’s interest. Enforcing this policy could potentially harm many of our aid efforts that are directed through these UN organizations and will continue to derail US efforts to have a positive influence in the Arab world.
For Palestinians, the UNESCO decision may be a strategic win. It gained recognition at a prominent UN affiliate, and it has successfully made the US vulnerable by forcing it to cut funding from a popular and respected organization. For Americans, however, enforcing this policy is largely a non-issue. Americans are overwhelmingly pro-Israel, and frequently consider the UN a waste of time and money. Ironically, the Palestinian push for recognition at these organizations may prove just how important they are. Many of these organizations promote US interests. The World Intellectual Property Organization, for example, attempts to limit the amount of intellectual property theft that damages US companies. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has already criticized the UNESCO vote, highlighting the negative impact Palestinian membership could have on these other UN branches.
When an organization is not properly functioning because of a lack of resources, you have to think about the millions and millions of people who are being impacted and affected
On the other hand, this could be a good strategy for Palestine to leverage the US, and Israel to make big concessions. Palestinian statehood is consistently one of the most important issues in the Arab world. If the US continues to come to Israel’s defense, it will reinforce the perception that the US does not support a two-state solution, or democracy in the Middle East. For decades Arabs have viewed the US with suspicion and even contempt. The US decision to cut funds from UNESCO is a loss for everyone. What remains to be seen is how far Palestine is willing to push, and how resilient the US will be when the time comes to cut more funding.