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Tell Congress to act rationally on UN and the Palestinians

Earlier this week, members of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), voted to admit the PLO as "the state of Palestine," with full member-state status in that organization.

This action triggers an existing U.S. law, first passed in 1991 and then strengthened in 1994, that compels the U.S. to cut off all funding to UNESCO.  With the Palestinians reportedly poised to seek membership in as many as 16 other UN member organizations, this law could mean the U.S. effective withdrawal from a wide range of international bodies. 

Doing so recklessly and pointlessly sacrifices vital U.S. interests across every sector and around the globe. In the words of Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, withdrawing from UN agencies that admit the Palestinians would be "catastrophic for the U.S.-U.N. relationship." Sen. Graham said, "I don't think that's in our near-term or long-term interest." 

At the time these laws were passed, the idea that there would eventually be a sovereign Palestinian state was still not accepted as part of the public discourse related to peace efforts, let alone a tenet of U.S. or Israeli policy. Of course, in the years since that time, both the U.S. and Israel, as well as the entire international community, have embraced the idea that negotiations will lead to two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

The U.S. view on a Palestinian state changed and evolved.  So, too, must the U.S. approach to Palestinian efforts to promote the legitimacy of their cause at the United Nations.

What is needed today is flexibility, not dogmatism. Congress must amend existing legislation regarding the U.N. and the Palestinians to include sufficient flexibility to protect U.S. national security interests. These interests include keeping Israel secure and achieving, ultimately, a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The Obama administration and Congress must both work with renewed determination to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Only such a determination can break the current diplomatic impasse and the resulting cycle of diplomatic crises, and avoid further marginalizing and isolating America on the international scene. Only such a determination can move the focus of action, and the investment of energies, away from the United Nations and back to the negotiating table, where they belong.