The value of a credible threat

Washington’s cut-off of funding to UNESCO offers a valuable lesson for Israeli policy toward Gaza.

November 8, 2011 17:24
Palestinian diplomats at UNESCO

Palestinian UNESCO reps 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier)

After the U.S. halted funding to UNESCO last week in response to the agency’s acceptance of “Palestine” as a full member, many pundits argued that Washington would thereby undermine its international influence. But Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), whose party strongly supports U.S. engagement with the UN, had a counterargument: Doing exactly what America had threatened to do would actually bolster its influence, he said, by showing that its views could not be ignored with impunity.

Nor did it take long for his prediction to come true: Last Thursday – just two days after the Palestinian Authority had announced plans to seek membership in 16 additional UN organizations – PA Foreign Minister Riyal al-Maliki announced that these plans had been shelved. Faced with the realization that Washington really would stop paying its 22% share of UN agencies’ budgets, it seems the same “international community” that overwhelmingly voted to accept “Palestine” into UNESCO began pressing the PA to not repeat the gambit.


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