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Here it is..  From Ha'aretz.
There comes a time when people and governments show what they are made of,  and today is one of those days. Unfortunately the state showing that is the USA.

As matters now stand according to Ha'aretz, the vote on PA membership in UNESCO is to begin debate on Monday with a vote, expected to be a substantial majority in favor, is expected possibly as early as Tuesday.

Based on an earlier law singling out Palestine, and enacted while the US was on hiatus from UNESCO membership, and presumably on Congress' recent action also singling out Palestiine in particular, the United States is taking the position, aggressively, that it will defund UNESCO if UNESCO votes to admit PA as a full member.  The financial consequences to UNESCO are reportedly very very damaging to that organization and its good works in the world. Whatever good work in the world the US thought UNESCO was doing, it is prepared to damage or destroy the ability to do that work unless the US and Israel get their way. This is straight out financial blackmail.

And that's not the worst of it.

Despite the Palestinian application to the Security Council for full UN membership, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refrained from imposing punitive measures on the PA because the bid has not yet been voted on. Acceptance of Palestine as a member of UNESCO, however, would generate tremendous pressure on Netanyahu to take punitive steps, such as halting the transfer of Palestinian tax proceeds to the PA

Two compromises have been proposed, both intended according to Ha'aretz, to avoid the financial damage which the US defunding would cause. The blackmail appears to be working.

The first compromise is to allow PA to become members of various treaties but not a full member at this time with an additional provision that the vote on full membership would not take place until after the Security Council process is complete, with a complementary provision that at that time a special session of the UNESCO general body would be called, at the request of the Europeans without an indication of what that body would then do, but only if PA deferred the vote. Unfortunately, a problem with this solution is that the US statutory ban would continue to apply at that later meeting as much as it would to the one this coming week, with the same financial consequences.

As we all know, the Security Council part of the package is another hard fought matter, now complicated by FM Liebermann as to Bosnia, as reported here Apparently the ruling structure of UN Member Bosnia is that it has three co presidents, one for each of its three constituent parts who can only decide things unanimously, and the reporting is that financial considerations and deals have been made for development funds with one of the three and Israel, creating a governmental decision problem which may make the vote of Bosnia not available at all.  

The second would conduct the vote but defer putting it into effect for 'several' months.

The driving force behind both is the  threatened US financial damage. The reporting indicates that the Secretary General is urging the parties to avoid that damage.

At the present time, UNESCO has 194 members and 8 associated members, non self governing territories including the former Union islands affiliated with New Zealand, a place so small that  there were less than a thousand voters in the most recent, unsuccessful referendum on independence. At least three of the full members have had hiatuses in membership, South Africa, the UK and the USA.

This is apparently an issue in which Abbas has problems with the request for delay, given the political consequences to him of his consent to a delay of something of advantage to Palestinians.

Now what?

This situation poses a number of difficult problems worth some thought here, no matter which side you are on. I am putting out a lot of them here because it appears that many of them have not been discussed, and this is an invitation to chew on those of them you think need that, or clarity, subject to the usual rules above. This is not an invitation to chew on one another.

1. Other than bargaining power, what is the point of this massive effort by the US and Israel of attempting to continue without terminum that is visible, the non state status of PA in all forums? Is it simply to improve Israel's bargaining power at the table which thusfar still has no location and date and no agreed set of terms to be negotiated? Is it to give Israel time to take steps such as examination of the title of WB Palestinians to land they hold privately, so as to clear the way for annexation of the various illegal settlements and facilitate a complete takeover of WB and probably also Gaza, ejecting all of the dubiously loyal Palestinians to make that safe? Is it to allow Israel to attempt to annex various parts of the WB which PA has indicated it wants designated as world historical sites, so that all of them become part of Israel instead? Or is it so that Israel cannot be charged under various international treaties with misconduct as, presumably, one must be a recognized state to do that? Or is it simpler, to keep Netanyahu in power rather than, say, Lieberman and his party?  Or to weaken Abbas' negotiating power, such as it is? And what, if anything at all does the US get out of this, especially this administration, with its focus and history of the exapansion of the rights of people of multiple heritages on an equal basis? Is there something about the legal statelessness in international terms of Palestinne which is essential for Israel and, if so, what is it?

2. The boxed section of the article indicates that there are initial and punitive steps Israel is considering taking if PA becomes a member of UNESCO, including obligations it undertook under various agreements whose enforceability it requires in order to have as much authority over WB as it has? The entire matter of withholding revenue from WB is only made possible by one of those agreements, which allows Israel to collect and pass through various duties and taxes, a power which has been the subject of threats before, but is required by the agreements of the 1990s, the intentional withholding of which would put Israel itself in breach. And the word 'initial' suggests additional hostile steps against PA. Over membership in an international organization when the Palestinian people are more numerous than many recognized states and have met the recognition of conditions by IMF and other entities which have opinions about it relevant to the determination, and other nations are making this vote, not it?

3. What's in this for the USA?  The US is a nation whose history has proudly included the increase in equality among all of its residents, and of struggles for obtaining the same for other people in other places? Our national identity and credibility is involved in such issues, despite rushes of nativism and Know Nothing obliviousness to those values from time to time.  We have struggled as a matter of national honor and self respect for over a century to defeat religious and ethnic discrimination. What does the US get from its participation in this process of disenfranchising a  whole people, especially based on the grounds that it currently based on, basically nothing that directly involves the USA.

Its view of the work of UNESCO is also a matter of concern, as UNESCO's interests are educational and cultural, and no issue of science, culture, education health ( Work on AIDS and HIV)  or even world peace is implicated in this threat of defunding. It is not as if UNESCO has done something within its purview that offends the US. I can see how Republicans, who hate the UN, would not mind destroying UNESCO, as a step to destroying the UN entirely, so that it can imagine itself in control of a new Roman Empire, until it falls, but that is not the view of most Americans. UNESCO is the culturally virtuous organizations whose cards are sent at Christmas and for whom kids have trick or treated at Halloween.  How is it in the interest of the US to do all it can to forbid another nation in building to be recognized for what it is in this cultural way, where the land is full of items of world cultural significance, not just that of the two parties here? And not to recognize grounds thought improper here as the basis for which its own force and reputation are put in play to act as it proposes to do?  If the question is how can the US affirm  Israel's statehood since it won its own in a war, but  how does that distinguish Israel from Palestine which is trying to win its independence as well, but not by warlike means in an age which favors non warlike means.  Why is this people different as far as the US is concerned such that it places its reputation and honor in pledge to the task of denying this to another people?

And the matter of the majorities available both in the Security Council and the General Assembly and here are important. What will be the effect on those majorities whose positions taken individually the US is now seeking to use its power to overturn in favor of its own and one other state's only. What will happen to US diplomatic power if those majorities come to believe that the US position is merely cynical and not interested in the views of those whom they do not select for favor for whatever reason, when the US comes calling needing something which it cannot force or pay for. How will countries who got essential support from UNESCO feel when it is lost for this kind of reason.

Or is it the time of the US to admit that those values it proclaims are simply negotiating chips which it will give to another state to use as that other state will? That the little islands off New Zealand are OK for recognition but for reasons not stated Palestine is not? And no reason need be stated to keep the US from using force alone, as long as it has it, to get what it wants this week.

4. Israel's security. This is also not affected by anything involving UNESCO, at least not as far as I have seen. The one risk mentioned in the article is that once PA receives diplomatic recognition anywhere, that will lead to a tumble out of changes which tumbleout will alter the relative positions of the parties legally and diplomatically,without moving a single person on the ground. If there is a tumbleout, why is that a good thing, or why is it not.

5. How is this supposed to get the parties to the bargaining table? If that is the goal at all? All of the pressure is being placed on one side only. Is the goal the negotiation,  whether it succeeds or fails, or a durable peace deal? How can one make a durable peace deal if one side is pressured and the other is not, when neither has really appeared to negotiate and, save for settlements, neither has set forth its position on the negotiations, no matter how much has appeared in the newspapers? What happens if each side presents positions the other is known not wlling to accept, and neither is willing to budge. And what good does a peace treaty do if the terms are so one sided that it is only a matter of time before trouble begins again because of the unresolved problems left by whatever deal is made, or not made.

History does not stop developing, and it is illogical to assume that unlike all of the rest of the change in history, change in this area can be stopped once and forever by what is done here, unless it is done on a basis where neither party feels aggrieved enough to want to change it when the opportunity arises. As it will. And most certainly, a resolution won with money is the very worst way to try to resolve anything. What has been bought can be and perhaps will be required to be bought again at a later time. There will always come a time when the power balance shifts, and that time is usually the one where the suppressed grievances arise, in their well aged and rooted state, remembering the reaction of a certain European state to the harsh terms that ended WWI. It's not just the things you approve of that live on once a document is signed.

6. Is anyone here willing to sacrifice UNESCO to these concerns which it did not create, but which will limit or eliminate the good work it does?  Why or why not.

I throw this out for discussion, and suggest that parties consider addressing some of the issues noted in the question, as they choose. Usual householder rules that I use, NO ad homs, personal insults (telling someone they're stupid or ignorant or thinking out of various anatomical parts does not help anything), flame wars,  group assaults, arguments off topic to this particular situation or derived from other posts at other times, cite and link to sources if you are relying on them, and honor kos' rule of the householder.

Originally posted to Christy1947 on Sat Oct 29, 2011 at 08:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.


Should the US walk away from UNESCO over the issue of PA membership

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Comment Preferences

  •  Here is the way I see it. FYI only, no special in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    sight into the chessboard or playing by certain State Dept. personnel.

    Once again, the USA plays with Unesco holding it as a pawn to try to blackmail other smaller countries to vote for something the USA wants.

    Last time the USA withdrew from UNESCO for a while. The world went on without it.

    I believe the UNESCO should approach, say China and ask if the USA threatens to withhold funding (and thereby withdraw from supporting it or being involved in any decisions) that China should be asked (as 1/5 of the entire population of the world, and a growing economic power) to replace that portion of UNESCO assessments.

    Crisis in UNESCO averted, and the work goes on.

    And Palestine gets considered on the merits, and stuff that follows with abrogated agreements or failed treaties, that's on the parties deliberately sabotaging agreements.

    Short of that maybe a combination. Like maybe a 1/2 the US share and a increase in all assessments modestly to make up the loss of the USA threat to withhold funding.

    Should never give in to blackmail.  Shame on Obama for this latest act of cowardice.  /  eom.

    If you think that you and a bunch of other people can just show up on Wall St, camp out and have any effect whatsoever, you're dreaming. *YUP!* h/t Hamden Rice

    by BeeDeeS on Sat Oct 29, 2011 at 08:58:26 PM PDT

  •  I feel more and more sorry for Abbas these days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sue B

    He's staring at this Gordian knot which can't be untied. There is no sword.

    Instead, he finds himself in the middle of airport security, suffering a humiliating public strip-search, to make sure that he doesn't even have nail-clippers on him.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Sat Oct 29, 2011 at 08:59:40 PM PDT

  •  The reason for the Palestinians' nonstate status (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    debedb, Shane Hensinger, Hoodoo Man

    is the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize Israel's right to exist.

  •  You've written about three diaries here (3+ / 0-)

    reminding me of the man who jumped on his horse, and rode off in all directions at once.

    I do hope others will follow all the threads coming out of your tapestry.

    One thing I find fuzzy is how you keep speaking of the US as if it were one solid thing. The fourth diary, which you barely attempt (you did say "I can see how Republicans, who hate the UN, would not mind destroying UNESCO...), would have to look at Obama/Congress/Oligarchs/Media/People of the USA, to unpack all the conflicting views and interests at stake here.

    When you write "US", are you thinking of an empire living by realpolitik but trying to project a kinder, gentler image to the world, or what?

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Sat Oct 29, 2011 at 09:14:50 PM PDT

    •  The invitation here is for you and others to do (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, Fire bad tree pretty, Brecht

      whatever unpacking you think is appropriate, subject to the usual list of incivilities, and kos' rules, to illuminate some part of this package. If you think the domestic politics of UNESCO need unpacking, go for it. If you think the fate of UNESCO is collateral damage to a bigger issue, explain that. Write your comment or diary.

      As for three diaries on three vaguely related subjects, I am in part moved by news cycles which seem to call for highlighting for thought by others here various events which could slide under the attention horizon and be missed.To our collective loss. In this I concede that I use English language middle eastern news sources not charged with improper thoughts, given the sensitivities of some.  I tend to think of the articles and the particular events they describe as  bricks which, when we don't pay attention to them, turn out to be forming walls that may or may not have been intended until the wall is already up.

      I have not, for example seen much (any?) coverage of this issue or the court case about Gazan civilians having no right to relief, when the justification is a legally cognizable state of war, which fits with today's declaration by Bibi of thelast round of missiles in both directions constituting a 'declaration of war.' An intentional increase in formal governmental threat, and change in legal status and risk, especially when seen in the context of a pressure as a priority for peace negotitions. But if you missed the two articles, you might miss the point.  

      •  I can't unpack what you meant when you wrote US; (0+ / 0-)

        It's a keystone of your diary, yet you leave it completely undefined. Sure, I could guess - but there's quite a gap between raising questions for your audience, and asking them to mind-read.

        Other than that, I like a diary that tries to open up to audience participation. Both the diary and your response to me are informative, well-written, and thought-provoking, so thank you.

        Fire bad tree pretty wrote below, "Israel does not intend to grant any kind of Palestinian state." I would say instead, Bibi does not want to give an inch more than he has to, and the less he clarifies his positions, the less anyone can hold him to them.

        He would say Israel is at war with Gaza and not at war, alternating them according to his own convenience. Instead of actually declaring war, he says the missiles amount to a declaration of war (to justify a brutal response) - but later, when the missiles abate, he can say the lack of missiles have declared a peace, so you can't hold us to any internationally recognized standards of war.

        Even a 5 year old knows not to play games with someone who changes the rules throughout the game - unless, like Palestine, they have no escape.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Sun Oct 30, 2011 at 08:43:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  No state is obligated to fund UNESCO (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hoodoo Man

    Just curious - is UNESCO still awarding the prize named after one of Africa's worst dictators, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, of Equatorial Guinea?

    "The two pioneering forces of modern sensibility are Jewish moral seriousness and homosexual aestheticism and irony." Susan Sontag

    by Shane Hensinger on Sun Oct 30, 2011 at 12:24:52 AM PDT

  •  In his most recent UN speech (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, Brecht, unspeakable, angry marmot

    Netanyahu called the UN the "theater of the absurd". But what is really absurd is the attempt by Israel and the US to deny any kind of role for Palestine in UN agencies and associations. The reason for this is plain. Israel does not intend to grant any kind of Palestinian state. Which is why the political leanings of successive Israeli governments have been indistinguishable from a Palestinian perspective. The real theater of the absurd is Israel thinking that they can have an endless peace 'process' without any resolution. Which is what Israel really wants - either total capitulation by Palestinians or a continuing state of non-resolution of the conflict whereby Israel takes more and more land and makes a Palestinian state more and more impossible. Settlers enforce this policy every day by burning olive trees, preventing the harvest, harassing Palestinians violently etc, and do with with impunity under the gaze of IOF soldiers.

  •  Here is Israel's response to it's OWS like (4+ / 0-)


    Netanyahu cabinet boosts taxes on Israel's rich after social protests

    The Trajtenberg taxation recommendations, which were voted in unanimously on Sunday, included raising the highest tax bracket from 45% to 48%, as well as raising the tax on interest, dividends, stock market profits by 5%.

    An additional tax of 2% will also be levied on those with exceptionally high salaries, and the corporate tax is planned to go from 24% to 25% in 2012.

    The report's chapter approved Sunday also included tax breaks for young parents, worth NIS418 for every child under 3 years old, as well as a drop of NIS0.4 in gasoline prices. The benefits are planned to go into effect in 2012.

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