The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman warned today that President Obama’s push to resume UNESCO funding could give extra lift to the Palestinian Authority’s drive for statehood.
Obama’s proposed budget includes $79 million for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which admitted “Palestine” as a full member in October.
In response to the “regrettable, premature” action, in the words of the State Department, the administration cut off funding for UNESCO. U.S. contributions comprised 22 percent of the agency’s funding; a $60 million contribution scheduled for last November was withheld.
“The Palestinian leadership’s dangerous statehood scheme at the UN was dealt a significant blow last year after the U.S. cut off funding to UNESCO due to its admission of ‘Palestine,’” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said today. “Now, the administration is requesting to resume funding to UNESCO, despite the fact that it includes ‘Palestine’ as a member. Resuming U.S. funding would give a green light for other UN bodies to follow in UNESCO’s footsteps and support the Palestinian statehood push.”
Under U.S. law, no contributions can be made to organizations granting the Palestine Liberation Organization member-state standing, or any other “organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”
A footnote in the Executive Budget Summary states the administration’s intent to change the law and pay the past-due contributions that had been frozen: “The Department of State intends to work with Congress to seek legislation that would provide authority to waive restrictions on paying the U.S. assessed contributions to UNESCO. Should the Congress pass this legislation, this funding is sufficient to cover the FY 2013 UNESCO assessment and the balance of the FY 2012 assessment.”
“Any effort to walk back this funding cutoff will pave the way for the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral statehood scheme to drive on, and sends a disastrous message that the U.S. will fund UN bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make,” Ros-Lehtinen said.