Ambassador Power: Defunding UN Agencies for Admitting ‘Palestine’ Hurts U.S.

By Patrick Goodenough | April 2, 2014 | 7:29pm EDT

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addresses the Security Council in New York on March 3, 2014. (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

( – Defunding United Nations agencies that admit “Palestine” is not in the interests of the U.S., Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power argued Wednesday, because doing so constitutes a “double win” for the Palestinians.

Not only do they score by gaining admission to a U.N. body, she told the House Appropriations’ subcommittee responsible for foreign operations, they also benefit by having U.S. influence in that body reduced, making way for the likes of Russia, China and Cuba to take the lead.

Power was arguing for lawmakers to support a waiver to provisions in U.S. law that prohibit funding for any U.N. agency “which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”

That legal requirement forced the Obama administration to defund the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after it became the first U.N. agency to admit the Palestinian Authority, in late 2011. For two years the administration sought a waiver, without success, and last November the U.S. lost its voting rights at UNESCO as a result of being two years in arrears.

UNESCO’s loss of the 22 percent of its budget the U.S. had been providing hit the agency hard. After U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon fretted about the financial implications to the world body, the P.A. suspended plans to extend its U.N. recognition campaign.

As a result, many lawmakers viewed the funding cutoff as an effective deterrent.

But Power said Wednesday that the defunding requirement harms U.S. interests more than those of the Palestinians.

“In the event that the Palestinians seek and obtain membership in a U.N. agency, the last thing that we want to do is to give them a double win,” she said. “And it would be a double win for them to secure a win in an agency on the one hand, and then the exclusion of the United States from that very agency, leaving the agency at the mercy of leadership from Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela – the countries that tend to fill the space when we depart.”

Later during the hearing, Power again made the case for a waiver.

“The American people and the United States are so much better off when the United States is in good standing within these organizations, defending our interests, fighting for our friends, and not surrendering the playing field to those that would like nothing more than for the United States not to be in these organizations.”

With the U.S.-mediated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations close to collapse, P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday announced plans to seek further international recognition, by joining 15 international conventions.

Power told the House panel that the administration opposes all unilateral efforts by the P.A. “that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only come about through a negotiated settlement.”

The U.S. and Israel see the P.A.’s U.N. campaign as an attempt to bypass the process of seeking a negotiated resolution to the conflict, to which Palestinian leaders have committed themselves in numerous signed agreements since 1994.

A 1990 law bars funding to “the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”

A second law, passed in 1994, prohibits “voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”

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