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January 2, 2018 10:27 am

Time for the US to Send a Message by Cutting UN Funding

avatar by Daniel Flesch

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US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley vetoes an Egyptian-drafted resolution on recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem, at a Security Council meeting in New York City, Dec. 18, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Brendan McDermid.

Recent events at the United Nations likely indicate a new tone to deliberations at the international organization. Driven by their frenzied attempt to demonize and delegitimize Israel, many of the UN’s member states improperly injected themselves into a matter of sovereign US policy —  and, as a result, tried to humiliate the United States. As a consequence, the US should substantially cut its financial contributions to the United Nations.

On December 18, the US vetoed an Egyptian-drafted UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” The “recent decision” was announced in President Donald Trump’s December 6 speech, in which he declared that the United States “officially recognize[s] Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” The other 14 members of the UNSC all voted in favor of the resolution.

Seeking recourse after falling short at the UN’s highest body, on December 20, Yemen and Turkey — as the respective chairs of the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — brought the resolution before the UN’s General Assembly (GA), where no country can exercise a veto. Although GA resolutions have no enforcement mechanism, they often serve as a litmus test of world opinion. And the resulting vote was unequivocal: 128 in favor and 9 against, with 35 abstentions.

That an anti-Israel resolution passed in the General Assembly is no surprise; Abba Eban, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, once famously remarked that if Algeria introduced a resolution stating that the world was flat — and that Israel had flattened it — the resolution would pass by a vote of 164 to 13, with 26 abstentions.

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However, the December 20 resolution should particularly concern the US — not simply because the resolution is anti-Israel, but because it seeks to interfere with a matter of internal US policy. Where a nation decides to locate its embassy is a sovereign act, and one that is not within the purview of the United Nations. In his speech, President Trump rightly noted that every country has the right to choose its own capital. Likewise, every nation has the right to determine the location of its embassies.

The decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem was first legislated by Congress in the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Furthermore, in June of this year, the Senate passed a resolution (90-0) recognizing that “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel,” and called on the president to “reaffirm the Jerusalem Embassy Act … and abide by its provisions.”

Far from a reflexive, compulsive act by a non-traditional president, Trump’s decision simply affirmed what has already been American policy for more than two decades; furthermore, it’s a position that enjoys broad support from elected officials on both sides of the aisle. Understood in this context, it is clear that the General Assembly vote was not just an admonition of an American president or an effort to humiliate the US, but a provocative attempt to repudiate the sovereignty of the American people.

Moreover, the UN needlessly inserted itself despite the clear absence of direct, tangible policy consequences. As host to Israel’s parliament, Supreme Court, prime minister and most Israeli government agencies, it is understood that Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital, irrespective of final parameters of any peace agreement with the Palestinians — including the most generous Israeli peace plan in 2008, which offered eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Trump also noted that his decision does not “reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement…that is acceptable to both sides.” In short, it does not change the facts on the ground.

The second notable development is the length to which UN member states went to pass this latest anti-Israel resolution. For comparison, the last time that the US issued its Security Council veto was in February 2011. Then, 79 states co-sponsored a draft resolution that demanded Israel cease building settlements in and around Jerusalem. The resolution failed 14-1, yet not one of the 79 cosponsors sought recourse in the General Assembly, where passage may well have carried significant consequences for Israel. For example, the EU could have increased its campaign to discriminate against, or boycott, products made in the settlements.

In 2017, however, the resolution in question concerns a decision internal to the United States, one that neither affects facts on the ground nor benefits Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians. And yet two different countries did not hesitate to bring Egypt’s resolution before the General Assembly.

The obvious purpose of the GA vote was to give certain members of the international community an opportunity not only to reject Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but to effectively reprimand the United States. The fact that Egypt, which receives $1.3 billion annually in US foreign aid, first authored the resolution makes this blatant display of anti-Americanism all the more egregious. The US must act to disincentivize UN members states from future attempts to neutralize its Security Council veto, and to try to humiliate it in the General Assembly.

The US provides 22% ($4 billion) of the UN’s mandatory contributions — far exceeding the contributions from other major countries — for administrative and programs costs, as well as for peacekeeping operations. The remaining $6 billion in US support are voluntary contributions that fund organizations such as UNICEF, the World Food Program and UNRWA (whose existence likely perpetuates the Palestinian conflict).

On December 24, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley offered an initial response to the resolution: that the US will cut the UN’s 2018-19 fiscal year operating budget by $285 million. Admittedly, this reduction is intended to “increase the UN’s efficiencies while protecting [American] interests.” Though a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to discourage the UN’s recent behavior.

The US, in the world of international relations, cannot always expect an unambiguously causal relationship between financial support and policies it wants. However, when illiberal actors hijack the UN, and pursue extraordinary measures to actively interfere with internal US policies, it is time to impose a consequence: reduced funding to the United Nations.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • drivin98

    It seriously surprises me to hear adults talk about de-funding or getting rid of the UN altogether. Yes, it’s an imperfect institution, like everything man builds, but the countries of the world need to be able to speak openly to each other and work together for common good.

    I get the feeling commenters here don’t like it because it tries to hold Israel to account for its continuing crimes. You know what? Much better to argue with the world in the halls of this institution than on a battlefield. Everyone loses in war.

  • I’m all for reduced funding. How about reducing it to zero?

  • mjazzguitar

    Prior to announcing this, the President should have someone get the most egregious examples of the indoctrination of palestinian children in the schools and in the media. In school they have to write suicide poems and they had a commercial showing a bomb kid in heaven saying he had his own amusement park.

  • graylens

    First it is notable that the resolution was sponsored by Egypt which is allegedly at peace with Israel, not a very peaceful act. As Israel says a cold peace is better than a hot war, Egypt has a long history, since 1976, of playing both sides and extorting the US for not warring on Israel. In respect to the UN UNWRA should be defunded, it is nothing short of a breeding grounds for jihadists, The so called palestinians are the only people who after 70 years and four generations are automatically refugees. UNWRA is notorious for their record keeping, in their view most 1948 “refugees” are still alive. A recent survey in Lebanon found and over count of some 62% . If there had been a normal resettlement of the “refugees” after 1948 most of the people would be citizens of their home countries, Remember Israel absorbed over 800,000 Jews from arab lands after 1948 as well as survivors from Europe some 40,000 Ethiopian in the early 1980’s and several 100,000 FSU refugees, making them Israelis

  • The U.N. is a useless organization and counter-productive – Issues Non-binding resolutions with no legal standing that includes the ICJ advisory only.
    The U.N. cannot create State or modify borders, they have no such authority.
    In a Democratic legal system if you have decision that you think is erroneous or unjust you can appeal that decision and many times it is reversed.
    U.N. opinions and or resolutions are (non-binding) biased, unjust, arbitrary and capricious (the same apply to the ICJ – International Court of Justice).
    The U.N. has issued numerous opinions and non-binding resolutions that are biased, unsubstantiated and contrary to historical and factual evidence. This U.N. collusion with corrupt and biased countries and the issuance of non-binding egregious opinions and resolution has eroded the credibility of the U.N. beyond repair.
    This has raised the ire and an outcry by many nations, politicians and institutions to de-fund the U.N. and dismantle it.
    It is well known that the U.N. and the ICJ can only offer and issue a non-binding advisory recommended opinions and resolutions which carry no legal standing or affect. They can only issue a non-binding recommendation and resolution and if it is accepted by all parties in writing, then their recommended opinion and resolution is applicable (Provided the parties abide by the terms). Otherwise it has no meaning, validity, and no legal standing.
    Therefore, my suggestion is stop panicking and aggrandizing these biased criminal organizations. Their recommended non-binding opinion has no meaningful value and no legal standing.
    By reacting to and citing the non-binding recommendations of this criminal organization as having any validity, you are misleading the public that the recommended opinions by these criminal organizations might have some validity, which it does not.
    It is time to expose the fraud and deception by these unethical, corrupt and unjust organizations and dismantle them completely.
    It will also save a substantial amount of money and resources that could be put to a better use.
    YJ Draiman

    P.S. The League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations, since the league did not accomplish its purpose. The U.N. has not accomplished its purpose for what it was created to perform ethically and honestly.
    In today’s society the Nations of the world can function without an organization such as the U.N.

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