The United States government has taken a different political approach to Israel than previous administrations. They have withdrawn from international bodies and are starting to put pressure on the Arab Palestinians to take responsibility.
In October last year, the US and Israel both withdrew from the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) because of “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias”.
That wasn’t the first time the countries had expressed discontent with the anti-Israel stance of the UN body but around the same time, the United States passed the Taylor Force Act which effectively cut off U.S. economic aid that “directly benefits” the Palestinian Authority until they cease payments to families of terrorists.
In June this year, the US announced that they would be leaving another UN body – the Human Rights Council. The reasons were similar to the UNESCO withdrawal, with Niki Haley saying that the US would no longer be party to an organisation ‘which has for too long been a protector of human rights abusers, and a “cesspool” of political bias’.
And economic pressure to create better conditions for the Arab Palestinians rather than perpetuate their victim status and the conflict was sent last month when the US cut even more money from UNRWA.
And the most recent announcement is that the US will be closing down the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington, with the US administration saying it “will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”
It is hard to know exactly where this hardline approach will lead. Some commentators have suggested that it will fuel radicalisation and lead to more violence while others think the pressures might just be the push that the Palestinian leadership needs to enter negotiations and compromise with Israel.
Time will tell how effective the moves are but one thing is certain – it is likely to achieve different results because it is a different approach to the situation. It is also important to point out that whatever one thinks of the actions, the reasons underpinning them are hard to argue with. New Zealand may or may not reconsider funding UNRWA, for example, but it is hard to ignore the fact that the UN agency is a barrier to peace. And leaving UNESCO may be seen as too bold a move but there can be no doubt as to how anti-Israel the international body is.
Perhaps one of the reasons that the US is taking bold steps is because their softer appeals have apparently fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps if other nations that purport to stand for human rights and justice, like New Zealand, were to raise some of the concerns about Palestinians glorifying and funding ‘martyrs’ then needed reformation may be possible. But so long as the US feels that they are alone in uttering those truths and so long as there are bold people in the administration then bold actions are somewhat inevitable.