Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greets delegates after addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, US, September 20, 2017. .
(photo credit: EDUARDO MUNOZ / REUTERS)
The Palestinians intend to submit applications to join three United Nations agencies as full members in the coming days, a Palestinian Authority official said on Thursday.
The three agencies include bodies that PA President Mahmoud Abbas previously told the US administration they would not join, according to the official, who said he could not reveal the names of the organizations.
“We decided to submit papers to join three UN organizations to strengthen the standing of the State of Palestine in the international community,” he told The Jerusalem Post
. “President Abbas has signed the applications and we will be handing them over to the relevant organizations in the coming days.”
PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also told official PA television on Tuesday that Abbas signed applications to join UN agencies, but he did not state how many or which organizations.
Both the Obama and Trump administrations have asked Palestinians not to join UN agencies, because American law mandates that the US must cut off funding to any UN organization that grants the Palestinians full membership.
“No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states,” one US law passed in 1990 reads.
Another law passed in 1994 says that the US government must cease its funding to any UN agency that grants full membership to any group that does not have “internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”
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The US does not recognize the “State of Palestine.”
The Palestinians currently are full members in only one UN agency, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
When they joined in 2011, the US immediately cut its annual contribution to UNESCO, tens of millions of dollars, compelling the UN body to suspend some programs.
The Palestinian official strongly suggested that the Trump administration’s policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict motivated the Palestinians to apply to the three UN agencies.
“Back when we dealt with the US as an honest broker in the peace process, it asked us not to join these organizations and we complied. However, now that it has become clear that the US is not an honest broker at all, we decided to exercise our right in joining them,” the official said.
A number of the Trump administration’s policies have infuriated the Palestinians including its decision to relocate the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, its withholding of US funds for UNRWA, a UN organization that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, and its threat to close the PLO’s representative office in Washington.
A spokesman for the US Consulate in Jerusalem was not able to respond to a request for comment.
The US has previously called Palestinian efforts to join international organizations “unilateral” actions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon declined to comment.
However, Israel holds that Palestinian efforts to gain membership in international organizations constitute one-sided measures aimed at achieving statehood while bypassing peace negotiations and undermining the Jewish state’s standing in the international community.
Lara Friedman, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said in a phone call that Palestinian accession to UN agencies would have major consequences for Americans.
Friedman said: “American farmers and shippers would be shocked when the UN Food and Agricultural Organization programs specifically designed to benefit them suddenly end.
Americans would also have greater reason to fear for their well-being when the World Health Organization, which deals with international epidemics and pandemics, loses millions in funding. And Americans would also have greater reason to worry about the proliferation of nuclear weapons when the International Atomic Energy Agency is deprived of a major portion of its budget.”
According to Friedman, Congress could legislate a waiver for the US to continue funding UN organizations that grant the Palestinians full membership.
However, she said that she does not believe that the Congress or Trump would make an effort to push for the passage of such a waiver.
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