Daniel Levy makes five comments about the possible consequences of Palestine’s acceptance as a member of UNESCO.
2. What next at the U.N.? The Palestinian application for U.N. membership is, of course, still under discussion at the U.N. Security Council. That vote might take place by mid-November, though it could be further delayed. The Palestinian membership bid requires nine out of the 15 Security Council votes — and no vetoes — in order to succeed. In other words, it is guaranteed not to pass given the U.S. guarantee of a veto. So the remaining question at this stage becomes whether the Palestinians will muster enough votes (nine) to necessitate that veto, and what they will do once membership is rejected.
If one were to extrapolate the Security Council vote from today’s UNESCO vote, then one comes out with the following result: 9 in favor (China, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa, France, Lebanon, Gabon, and Nigeria); 2 against (U.S. and Germany), and 4 abstentions (UK, Portugal, Bosnia, and Colombia). If that were replicated in the UNSC, then the U.S. veto would come into play. However, if the Palestinians lose just one vote from the”yes” column then America is spared from wielding the veto (it is worth remembering that America, anyway, will be blamed for applying pressure to achieve the no’s and abstentions).
However, some of those yes votes may go wobbly somewhere between Paris and Turtle Bay, in particular the French themselves, as France has stated that it would support Palestine at the UNGA but not at the UNSC. The Palestinians will then have to decide whether to pursue an upgrade of their status to a state, but one that is an observer or non-member at the U.N. General Assembly. Such a move by the PLO is considered likely, and a victory at the UNGA is guaranteed. But it would represent a more assertive and challenging move than anything undertaken to date (as it accords possible leverage that falls more into the sanctions than symbolism category, such as strengthening Palestine’s claim to International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the occupied Palestinian territories).
The Palestinians are also expected to pursue membership at a host of other U.N. bodies. However, if the U.S. continues to withhold its funding from any and every institution according Palestine membership, then one might expect a degree of attrition on the part of member countries voting for Palestine and that eventually the Palestinians might start getting blamed as much as the U.S. for the predictable consequences of their actions. Should they nevertheless continue to pursue this U.N. diplomatic track then there is a relatively simple answer to the de-funding question: namely, for the Gulf states to step up and fill the gaps created by American de-funding. America’s now withheld UNESCO contribution is $60 million.
That really is chump change for the GCC counties, especially when they are spending tens of billions on purchasing American weapons (Saudi Arabia alone has ordered $60 billion of U.S. arms ).