As the president-elect begins to examine large publicly-funded projects he believes are too costly to the taxpayer (and he has mentioned specifically the F-35 fighter and the two, new Air Force One aircraft), he might want to direct his gaze from Trump Tower to East 42nd Street, the headquarters of the United Nations. At the moment, American taxpayers are providing $3 billion per year to fund that organization that most agree is in desperate need of a rigorous audit.
We’re all aware of the consistency of the organization’s anti-Israel’s position, and it appears another confrontation is looming during the final month of the Obama administration. There is a draft resolution being pushed by Egypt to be voted upon by the Security Council condemning settlement construction in areas that might become part of a future Palestinian state. PM Netanyahu is urging the US to veto the resolution and is clearly concerned that as a parting gesture Obama may decline to do so. In an unusual statement from someone not yet in office, Donald Trump issued an emphatic series of declarations urging Obama to veto the resolution, reiterating that only direct negotiations between the parties – not some demand from the UN – could produce a lasting settlement. As I’m writing this, it appears that Egypt is withdrawing the resolution under Israeli pressure, sparing Obama and Trump a possibly ugly confrontation.
It is difficult to conceive that the timing of this resolution is accidentally tied to this transitional period between two very different administrations.
No Enforcement Mechanism
But whether that resolution passes or is vetoed by the US (and Israel should note that Russia will vote in favor; despite a marginal thaw in the relationship, Putin’s advantages in the region are on a different scale with an open alliance with Iran) is irrelevant. Like so many other resolutions that emanate from the Security Council, this declaration, should it not be vetoed, is unenforceable.
The UN does nothing when a member nation, Iran, threatens, the elimination of another, Israel. The Security Council does nothing when Assad employs chemical weapons against his own population; offers limited condemnation of Russia as it bombs hospitals and civilian areas in Aleppo under the cover that it is fighting ISIS; watches from the sidelines as a terrorist group which once functioned as the tip of the resistance’s spear on the border between Lebanon and Israel has taken effective control of that country’s government and its military.
Insanely, the US supports the Lebanese Armed Forces with more than $200 million in equipment, and this equipment has appeared in Hizballah victory parades in Syria, although the LAF claims the gear was not supplied by them.
UNRWA – No One in US Talks About This
The people of Israel understand this far better than the people of America who foot the bill, but one of the most offensive UN initiatives is the UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians. Don’t misunderstand: I am not at all suggesting that the Palestinian civilian community is not in need of assistance. They need help desperately, but they allow themselves to be led by political forces whose primary purpose is not the welfare of its people.
But let’s face some painful facts: does the UNRWA help foster an atmosphere that encourages a segment of Palestinian society to open a constructive dialogue with the Israelis? UNRWA says is spends 54% of its budget on Education, but what does that education spending consist of? Unless we are receiving a great deal of misinformation in the West or the videos we see on MEMRI are inaccurate, many of the anti-semitic canards from which the Islamic world will never be free are still taught and reinforced. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. President For Life Abbas defends the stabbing and murder of Jews as “We have to protect our holy sites.”
So, we provide support to the people of the West Bank, many of whom believe that the Western Wall has no historic connection to the Jewish people and there is an overt effort underway by Jews to seize the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mound.
We support nearly twice the population in Gaza which, of course, is administered by Hamas, a Sunni terrorist organization, which rejects any notion of a two-state solution, believes that “Palestine” was endowed by God to Muslims and to concede territory is to renounce Islam. It is accepted, even by those unsympathetic to Israel, that Hamas uses UNRWA schools as armories and sites from which it launches missiles into Israeli territory.
So, leaving aside the entirety of the UN for the moment and the fact that our $3 billion did absolutely nothing to stop the slaughter of 500,000 people in Syria, what are we getting for this strategic investment in the Palestinian territories?
During 2015, the US spent $380 million on UNRWA, trying to assist people who hate us and our closest ally. Of that $380 million, nearly $100 million was directed into a special “Syria Appeal” and $20 million was directed to “Gaza Recovery and Reconstruction”. Wait. We gave Hamas $20 million to help rebuild Gaza after they initiated a military confrontation with Israel? I wonder how much of that went into purchases of concrete?
China Gets a Veto for $200k?
Oh, but here’s the best part. Iran’s total contribution to UNRWA: $20,000. Russia? $2 million. Russia’s contribution to Gaza? $0. China: $200,000. Zero for Gaza. The total contribution of all the Gulf States to Gaza? $0. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.
I would not describe myself as a Libertarian, particularly in the realm of foreign affairs. I believe the US because of our freedoms, our history, and our affluence does bear a disproportionate burden of keeping autocratic, hegemonic governments boxed in by parameters set by us.
For example, I do not favor any normalization of relations with Cuba nor any relaxation of economic sanctions without some quid pro quo from the regime. The American fugitives that have received safe haven must be extradited. There must be a reduction in the government’s repressive actions against those who oppose its policies. It’s a simple structure. Obama got absolutely nothing except a wonderful photo opportunity where he could pose in his Ray Bans in a tropical paradise oblivious to the duress of its citizenry.
The logical and much broader application of this approach would be a complete recalibration of our relationship with the UN. If the American taxpayer is going to continue to bear the burden of 20% of the organization’s total expenditures, then those taxpayers have the absolute right to make certain demands that their funds receive more responsible management.
Time For “Let’s Get Real” Meeting
If the US is going to provide 35% of the budget that has been supporting Palestinian refugees since 1949, and the Palestinians are going to continue to teach their children a hateful, racist ideology and try to use the UN to avoid direct negotiations with the Israelis, then I would argue that we should have a very quiet, very private meeting with Mr. Abbas and the new Secretary General of the UN and explain why we will not be issuing our next $380 million check.
It is only natural that a detailed examination of our return on investment in UNRWA would lead to a broader analysis of why we’re paying 20% of the expenses of an organization that often actively opposes our foreign policy objectives.