Editorial: Abbas Must Stop Politicizing the United Nations

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is continuing to defy Congress and the administration by pursuing Palestinian statehood via the United Nations. In September, the Palestinians submitted an application for full membership in the United Nations, which the Security Council is expected to vote on this upcoming week. Last week, the Palestinians were granted membership in UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. And the Palestinians have threatened to take their membership bid to 16 additional U.N. agencies and organizations.

President Obama and his administration have stood firm in opposition to Abbas’ dangerous, provocative actions. Unfortunately, Abbas has disregarded multiple American attempts to re-launch direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and has instead forced the United States into a troubling diplomatic position.

The Palestinian application to join UNESCO as a full member jeopardizes America’s relationship with the international body. Long-standing U.S. law forbids American contributions to any U.N. body that welcomes a unilaterally declared Palestinian state as a full member. Abbas ignored American warnings that Palestinian membership comes at the cost of hurting the United States and proceeded to damage our relationship with UNESCO.

Abbas and indeed the member states of UNESCO made a clear decision: they prefer Palestinian membership to American investment. As a result, the Obama administration was forced to make its own decision: cave to a defiant Palestinian Authority or abide by U.S. policy that statehood can only be achieved through direct talks. Wisely, the president has upheld the law and the State Department froze funding to UNESCO.

The Palestinians have expressed their intention to pursue membership in additional international bodies. It is essential that America take a principled stand against these provocative actions. Abbas’ actions only serve to delegitimize Israel, harm America’s relationship with the United Nations and its various agencies, and diminish their overall mission. U.N. officials have also signaled their strong opposition to any further efforts to get U.N. agencies to grant the Palestinians membership. “I believe this is not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

We cannot stand idly by as Abbas continues this reckless charade. Congress and the administration must remain committed to cutting support for bodies that allow the Palestinians to circumvent the peace process. In doing so, they set the tone for the international community to dissuade Abbas from politicizing additional U.N. bodies.

As President Obama said at the United Nations in September, peace will “not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.” Congress and the administration must remain committed to this principle and demand that the Palestinians return to the negotiating table with the Jewish state. No other avenue will lead to peace.

By pursuing the U.N. option and refusing to meet with Israel, Abbas is setting false expectations for his people that conditions on the ground will change. This hurts America’s standing in the region and could provoke a dangerous backlash against Israeli civilians. The United States must impose consequences for ignoring our policies and harming our ally, including a review of economic aid to the Palestinians. Our rhetoric has been consistent, and our actions must be as well. BACK TO TOP