President Donald Trump is reportedly preparing two executive orders that would halt US funding to the UN and other bodies that grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
The orders would reduce the United States’ role in international bodies, including the United Nations, and start a review process that would seek to potentially withdraw from multilateral treaties, the report said. Trump has been spending his first days in office signing a series of executive actions, including on abortion, immigration and border control.
According to The New York Times, a first draft order, titled “Auditing and Reducing US Funding of International Organizations,” would drastically reduce or terminate funding for UN agencies or other bodies that meet any one of several criteria. Among them: Agencies that “give full membership to the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization,” support abortion programs, or engage in any activity that skirts international sanctions against Iran or North Korea.
Federal law already requires the US to withdraw US funding from UN agencies that “accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.” That statute, enacted in 1990, is what required former president Barack Obama to defund UNESCO, in 2011, after it accepted a Palestinian bid for full membership.
Another 1994 law prohibits “voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”
A spokesman for the State Department said after UNESCO’s acceptance of the Palestinians that “longstanding legislative restrictions” compelled the administration’s decision to ultimately pull its contributions to the agency.
After the UN Security Council voted last month to brand West Bank settlements illegal, and the Obama Administration opted not to veto the move, Trump had promised that “things will be different” once he took office.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade “Palestine” to nonmember observer state status.
The new Trump order would also require eliminating all American taxpayer payments to an organization that “is controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism,” or considered to be engaging in the persecution of minorities or any other form of human rights violation, the Times said.
Those criteria apart, Trump’s order also calls for ratifying “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in aid the US provides to international institutions.
The draft order calls to establish a committee to determine if the US should defund a particular agency or institution, with specific attention to be paid to UN peacekeeping operations, the International Criminal Court, development funding to countries that oppose “important United States policies,” and the UN Population Fund, which manages reproductive health programs, including abortions.
At least one UN peacekeeping body, “the operation in southern Lebanon, directly serves Israeli interests by protecting the country’s northern border,” the New York Times said, “though the draft order characterizes the funding cuts as serving Israeli interests.”
This latest White House moves coincide with Republican efforts in the Senate to defund the United Nations over the Security Council passing a resolution last December that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal.
While that measure — introduced by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) — aims to punish the world body for its censuring Israel, it also aims to incentivize the UN to reverse course. The motion would strip the UN of American assistance until the president can certify to Congress that UNSC Resolution 2334 has been repealed.
The US government gives the United Nations roughly $8 billion in both mandatory payments and voluntary contributions each year, with at least $3 billion going to its regular and peacekeeping budgets.
Those funds make up 22 percent of the UN’s financial resources, more than any other country contributes
Since Obama allowed the anti-settlements Security Council motion through last month, Trump has signaled that he will not only take a dramatically divergent path toward US-Israel relations, but also to the United Nations.
After it passed, he tweeted to the Israeli people that, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20.”