The Obama budget is surely the gift that keeps on giving. Last fall, Ambassador John Bolton noted here that, after a Palestinian Authority power-play to obtain statehood by U.N. recognition rather than by honoring its commitments to negotiate with Israel, UNESCO had admitted “Palestine” as a member. In both his terrific book, Surrender Is Not An Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad, and an instructive Weekly Standard article, John pointed out that when Yasser Arafat tried this sort of thing in the Eighties, the Bush 41 administration stopped the PLO cold by threatening to pull funding, among other things.
Naturally, the Obama administration’s “no” vote and show of protest at the Palestinian gambit were so half-hearted that, as John explained here, several of our key allies either voted with the Palestinians (France) or abstained rather than opposed them (Britain and Japan). Obama would no doubt have let the Palestinians slide entirely except that federal statutes dating from the Bush 41 era required a full cutoff of U.S. funding, which John suggested, “Congress should insist occur immediately,” along with rejecting any administration efforts to weaken or eliminate the cutoff.
Our friend Scott Johnson of Powerline notes that the U.S. contribution is a big chunk of change, 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget. (The government website says, “The U.S. contributes close to $3.7 million dollars in extra-budgetary funds to UNESCO each year in addition to its assessed dues.) Scott’s also been reading JTA — it being hard to get news about Obama shenanigans from the American press. Turns out that, buried in a footnote in the administration’s voluminous $3.8 trillion budget proposed a few days ago, is an announcement that “The Department of State intends to work with Congress to seek legislation that would provide authority to waive restrictions on paying the U.S. assessed contributions to UNESCO.”
Thankfully, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a top-notch Florida Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is on the case, vowing to fight the White House on the waiver. As she puts it, “Any effort to walk back this funding cutoff will pave the way for the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral statehood scheme to drive on, and sends a disastrous message that the U.S. will fund U.N. bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make.” This will no doubt upset the Muslim Brotherhood, and whatever upsets the Muslim Brotherhood tends to upset the White House — and perhaps even the new Senate GOP friends the Brothers are cultivating. Hopefully, however, the House will hold the line.