Palestinians defy US, try joining more UN agencies as a member state

“Now that it has become clear that the US is not an honest broker at all, we decided to exercise our right in joining” UN agencies, a Palestinian official said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In an apparent pushback to the recent American transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority (PA) will soon apply for full membership at three unnamed United Nations (UN) organizations, a PA official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“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.

This is not a new tactic for Ramallah. After the PA was created following the Oslo Accords in 1993, it joined many international bodies of lesser importance. But ever since 2012, when the UN general assembly upgraded its observer status to “non-member observer state,” which formally allowed it access to international bodies, it has applied to them in waves.

Just two months ago, for example, the PA applied for membership to eight international treaties, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports. In December, after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, PA President Mahmoud Abbas applied to join 22 others. And as a response to Israel not releasing a fourth wave of terrorist prisoners in 2014, he announced that he was applying for membership in 15, although there could be some overlap.

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Even before its status had been upgraded at the UN, in 2011 “Palestine” was voted into the United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture (UNESCO), prompting Congress to immediately suspend its hefty contribution to that agency, which amounted to about a fifth of its budget.

This was due to two laws passed by Congress in 1990 and 1994 respectively. The first requires the US to withdraw funding from UN agencies that “accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.” The second 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.”

Two important international bodies that the PA has successfully joined are the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2015, and Interpol, the international police organization, in 2017. Both were key steps towards being able to pursue Israelis for alleged war crimes.

The PA has non-member status at such global bodies as the World Health Organization (WHO), World Tourism Organization and World Intellectual Property Organization, which could therefore be some of the targets of the current push.