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Calls to Cut U.N. Funding Grow After U.S. Abstains on Israeli Settlement Vote

by Countable | 3.20.17

Following the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from voting on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s construction of settlements in contested Palestinian territory, supporters of Israel in Congress have called for cutting off U.S. funding to the United Nations.

The international organization, which receives a significant portion of its budget from the U.S., has long been critical of Israel for building Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory and in the past America has tried to stop resolutions that favor one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following the vote, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that "As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th," signalling to lawmakers looking to take action against the U.N. that they may find a willing partner in the White House after Inauguration Day.

What happened at the U.N.?

Last week, a resolution was introduced by Egypt, New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal that condemned Israel for building settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The nations had first drafted the resolution earlier in December, and at the time the U.S. opposed it because it didn’t balance criticism of Israel’s settlements with a condemnation of terrorism and violence committed by Palestinians. The final version of the two and a half page resolution contained one sentence emphasizing the responsibility of Palestinians to curb terrorism, while also condemning violence against civilians generally.

A vote on the resolution had been scheduled, but Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and after Egypt’s president received a call from Trump. But the rules of the Security Council allow cosponsors of a resolution to advance a proposal even if the sponsor withdraws their support, and the four other nations put it forward for a vote. The U.S. was the only country on the Security Council to not vote in favor, instead opting to abstain, allowing the resolution to pass on a 14-0 vote.

As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council — the others being China, France, Great Britain and Russia — the U.S. could have chosen to veto the resolution. But the Obama administration has long felt that Israel’s settlements in contested territory are an obstacle to peace, and the countries that drafted the resolution wanted to bring it up for a vote before Obama left office in the hope of avoiding a veto by an incoming Trump administration. That raised questions about whether the U.S. actively encouraged the introduction of the resolution, a charge which Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Ambassador Samantha Powers denied while defending the abstention as being consistent with existing American policy.

Ukraine had reportedly planned to join the U.S. in abstaining from voting on the resolution as a gesture of goodwill toward Israel, but after Ukrainian Petro Poroshenko received two calls from Vice President Joe Biden in December, they chose to vote in favor. Biden’s office denied that he lobbied Ukraine to support the resolution, which it has been reported he did to ensure that the "optics" of the U.S. being the lone abstention on an otherwise unanimous Security Council vote weren’t upended.

How much funding does America give the U.N.?

While the U.N.’s 193 member nations are all responsible for paying dues, the U.S. has been its single largest financial contributor since its creation in 1945 and has historically provided about 22 percent of the funding for most U.N. agencies. Precisely how much funding America provides is difficult to determine, because as of 2011 the federal government no longer provides summary reports of mandatory and voluntary contributions to the U.N.

The U.N.’s operating budget is about $2.7 billion annually, and in 2016 the U.S. provided 22 percent of that, or $594 million. It also contributed $2.363 billion to the U.N.’s $8.27 billion peacekeeping budget, more than 28 percent of that total. But aside from contributing to the operating and peacekeeping budgets, the U.S. also makes voluntary contributions to U.N. programs like UNICEF (a fund for children in poverty) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In fiscal year 2013, President Obama’s budget request called for about $417 million in voluntary contributions to a variety of U.N. programs.

Will the new Congress defund the U.N.?

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have already signalled a willingness to advance legislation that puts a pause on American financial assistance to the U.N. if not ending it outright. In the House, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) is drafting a bill to stop all funding to the U.N. until it rescinds the resolution that he will introduce in the new session of Congress which convenes next week. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plans to use the April deadline to keep the federal government funded as an opportunity to cut off money for the U.N.

You can use the "Take Action" button to tell your reps in Congress how you feel about funding for the U.N. and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: State Department / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(252)
  • Jeff
    12/30/2016
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    Cut funding to Israel before the UN. Israel's treatment of Palestinians is inhumane.

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  • Deborah
    12/30/2016
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    Cut funding to Israel, don't cut funds to U.N.

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  • Sammi
    12/29/2016
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    What the departing administration has caused is unconscionable. We should absolutely defund the U.N. Our money can far better serve our needs elsewhere. We get no bang for our buck there. And besides, we must stand by our only ally in the region. They are bombarded on all sides by terrorists. I am ashamed that our nation has taken this 'deplorable' action.

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  • Kelly
    12/29/2016
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    The United Nations is an important peace-keeping organization. Do not cut funding!

    Like (17)
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  • Tim
    12/29/2016
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    We don't need to over react. Or another Brexit. Think, plan, think, plan, act.

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  • Linda
    12/29/2016
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    You can't take funding away from the UN. There are better ways of dealing with the situation besides being threatening. UN is an important part of world order. The American people are sick of aggressive congressional actions trying to achieve partisan goals. We are smart enough to use diplomacy instead.

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  • C0mm0nSense
    12/29/2016
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    This is the start of what potentially might be the worst and most isolationist presidency in a long time. Not only is this a bad idea from a moral standpoint but the power vacuum created by these introverted policies will damage the world in ways that may take generations to mend. Don't let this happen.

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  • Tassos
    12/29/2016
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    This is just another way republicans are going on the offense to become a unilateral neo-fascist bully around the world.

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  • Lilz
    12/29/2016
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    Are we seriously going to go against the rest of the world and support the occupation of Palestine? If we continue to feign ignorance as to how and why Islamic terrorism has become prevalent, and to claim our foreign policy has had no impact on that, we ensure more violence. We ensure that Isis has evidence for their recruits that the U.S. opposes muslims. Israel has been responsible for war crimes against Palestinians because they have our support. Why does no one propose divestment from Israel, rather than the U.N.?

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  • Leon
    12/29/2016
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    Funding should be cut. There are numerous cases where the UN is not effective and employed criminals that abused the weak.

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  • Robert
    12/30/2016
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    It makes no sense to punish the UN over the recent vote on illegal Israeli settlements. If we had wanted to block the resolution, we could have vetoed it. It only posed because we agree that Israel's activities in question are illegal and an impediment to peace. This is clearly being used as an excuse to defend the UN by those who are opposed to it for other reasons.

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  • Pam
    01/03/2017
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    Fund the UN not Israel.

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  • Whitney
    12/29/2016
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    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has blame on both sides, and I support the U.S. abstention of the UN resolution vote. The UN serves as an important check and balance for peace and humane treatment throughout the world. The U.S. cannot afford to turn inward and isolate itself from the UN. This sends a terrible message of intolerance and lack of cooperation, goodwill and leadership.

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  • David
    12/29/2016
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    Defund this communist/Islamic terrorist organization, it is no longer what it was intended to be, stop financing America's demise with American's taxes! Then tell the UN to use one of it's other locations as it's headquarters. THEN convert the UN building in America to high rise condo's.

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  • Loren
    12/29/2016
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    The UN was right to reprimanded Israel over the increased settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. Cutting off funding from the UN threatens global stability and undermines US moral authority.

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  • Noël
    12/29/2016
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    I do not personally agree with defunding the American support of the U.N. I believe that isolating ourselves will ultimately hurt us. Israel should be accountable for the land grab they are trying to push forward, and should have been held accountable for the means in which they've afforded it. This divisive action and others like it is not what I want to become the "American way."

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  • Pat
    12/29/2016
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    The UN has tried to become a world governing body. They are making policies and trying to enforce them on the world. It is not in the US best interest to remain a part of the UN.

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  • Erum
    12/29/2016
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    United Nations is a separate entity. Not a puppet or a mouth piece for US government. Let UN adhere to their values, while we work with the world and our allies to reach peace in the Middle East. Strong arming the UN into following the agenda of US or Israeli government is extremely crass and sets dangerous precedent. Do not support this sanction.

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  • Idiolect
    12/31/2016
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    Vote no. Fund the UN.

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  • Jennifer
    12/29/2016
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    This is massive overreach. Our current administration supported the move. Moreover, the UN is an important international body that is entitled to make decisions that are not always a result of the US' strategic interests. Finally, the UN does a great deal of international work that the US should onTime to support, regardless of Israel politics.

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