Obama wants to restore UNESCO funding, despite Palestine recognition

February 16, 2012

The Obama administration is clandestinely trying to resume funding a U.N. body that officially recognized the "State of Palestine."

But members of Congress say that they won’t stand for it.

A footnote tucked into the president’s recently unveiled budget proposal reveals the administration’s intent to resume funding for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, otherwise known as UNESCO.

UNESCO caused an international firestorm last year when it accepted Palestine as a member – despite the fact that Palestine is neither a state nor a full member of the U.N.

Congress responded to UNESCO’s unwarranted intrusion into the Middle East peace process by invoking a U.S. law that prohibits funding of any international organization that recognizes a Palestinian state.

Now, however, Obama is aiming to resume UNESCO’s funding – ignoring the Palestinians’ ongoing quest to establish a state via the U.N., rather than through direct negotiations with Israel.

According to a footnote in the White House’s budget summary: "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."

Foreign policy voices in Congress – and well as former government officials – tell the Washington Free Beacon that this simply won’t happen.

"This decision once again proves that the President is no friend to Israel," Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) told WFB. "Once again, the president is trying to skirt the law and Congress so that he can hurt our ally Israel and reward the enemies of peace. Why else would he request full funding for an organization that has allowed totalitarian regimes to hijack its agenda and further their single-minded campaign to destroy Israel?"

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "has made it very clear that he’s going to continue to pursue this effort" to achieve statehood at the U.N., said Richard Schifter, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs during the Reagan administration.

Schifter, chair of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, went on to describe Obama’s move as "troublesome," and noted that there would likely be "overwhelming Congressional consensus to not go in this direction – and when I say overwhelming, I mean overwhelming."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also expressed vehement opposition to resuming U.S. funding for UNESCO.

"I am deeply disappointed that, rather than standing up for U.S. law and for our key ally, Israel, the administration is seeking to remove this roadblock to the unilateral recognition of a ‘Palestinian state,’" Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. "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 U.N. bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make."