UNESCO, Then WHO, Then IAEA. Then the UN Itself?

Josh Rogin posted a rather extraordinary series of quotes from interviews with several U.S.  senators about the whole UNESCO drama and a looming “massive withdrawal” from UN agencies.

The senators interviewed represent both ends of the American political spectrum, from the staunch conservatives like John McCain to stalwart liberals like Patrick Leahey. Yet each of the senators seems to say, to varying degrees,  that they are either supportive of legislation that mandates the shut-off of funds to any UN agency that admits Palestine as a member, or are simply resigned to the fact that the USA will pull out of these agencies.

Here’s Lindsay Graham:

“This could be catastrophic for the U.S.-U.N. relationship. This could be the tipping point,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee, told The Cable in an interview on Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of bipartisan support for cutting off funding to any political U.N. organization that would do this,” he said. “What you are going to do is eventually lose congressional support for our participation in the United Nations. That’s what’s at risk here. That would be a great loss”… “I don’t think that’s in our near-term or long-term interest, but that’s what’s going to happen, that’s where this thing is headed,” Graham said.

In other words, Graham is saying that pulling out of UN agencies would harm American interests, but the Senate is not going to do anything to stop it. John McCain, on the other hand, supports the measure whole-heatedly.

“They’ve made a decision and they will pay the consequences for their decision,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told The Cable, referring to UNESCO. “And that is that U.S. tax dollars are not going to be spent, if I have anything to do with it, on organizations that take the measures they’ve taken.”

Then you have Carl Levin, a democrat, taking the same line as John McCain.

“We’ve put a very clear marker down in terms of what would be the result if there was an effort to prematurely declare a Palestinian state and [the administration] is implementing what they said they would do,” said Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI). “It was the right thing to do and they should be implementing it.”

And even Patrick Leahey is kind of resigned to the cut-off of funds.

Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Ops subcommittee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told The Cable today he was fine with the cutting off of funds to UNESCO.

“That’s what the law requires. It’s been there for 20 years and whether I support it or not, that’s the law,” he said.

All in all, there seems to be wide bi-partisan support in the Senate for doing nothing about changing this law.  And if the Senate doesn’t lead on this, there is no way that the GOP controlled House of Representatives will do anything about it.

So that is one side of the equation. The other is that is pretty much every country in the world supports Palestinian membership to UN agencies. They will be admitted to any agency to which they apply.

The math is simple. Congress can’t muster the will to change laws prohibiting American funding of UN agencies that admit Palestine as a member. Yet a vast majority of countries around the world support Palestine’s membership to a growing number of UN Agencies.  The only possible variable at this point would be the Obama administration signing an executive order claiming that these prohibitions are unconstitutional. But who knows if this is even in the offing?