U.S. Will Withhold Funds For
U.N. Agency After Vote to Grant Membership to Palestinians
New York. October 31, 2011. The United States will not pay $60 million
to a U.N. cultural and educational agency after it voted Monday to
accept the Palestinian mission as a full member, triggering a U.S.
requirement to cut off funds.
"We are not going to be able to continue contributing to the budget,"
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. "Palestinian
membership as a state in UNESCO triggers longstanding legislative
restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making
contributions to UNESCO."
Washington is required by law to cut off funding to any U.N. agency if
the Palestinian Liberation Organization is granted membership in any
group at the international body.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
voted 107-14 with 52 abstentions on Monday granting Palestinians full
membership in the organization. The U.S. voted against the nomination.
Eighty-one votes of the 173 UNESCO members were needed for full
membership to be approved.
"Long Live Palestine!" one delegate reportedly shouted in French at the
The U.S. funds about 22 percent of UNESCO's budget, or roughly $80
million annually. Nuland said the $60 million was scheduled to be sent
"We obviously have to comply with U.S. law, to comply with U.S.
restrictions. That said, we will have a conversation with Congress on
moving forward," she said.
Nuland said that if the U.S. ends up in arrears it could challenge U.S.
The U.S. rejoined UNESCO in 2002, after having left the organization 19
An aide to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen said the congresswoman supports full enforcement of the
law, without exception.
Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., has also introduced legislation that would
withhold U.S. contributions from any U.N. agency or program that
"upgrades" the status of the Palestinian observer mission at the U.N,
whether full membership or not.
Ros-Lehtinen has previously argued efforts at de facto recognition of a
Palestinian state is an attempt to evade a negotiated settlement with
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the U.N. vote
signals weakness in U.S. diplomacy, particularly since some of the
United States' closest allies voted against U.S. wishes.
"So ineffective was Obama administration diplomacy, that France voted in
favor of Palestinian membership, and Britain and Japan abstained. U.S.
statutes, dating from 1990, now require a full cutoff of U.S. funding,
which Congress should insist occur immediately. Should the
administration seek changes in the applicable statutory provisions that
would eliminate or weaken the funding cutoff, Congress should reject
them," Bolton said.
"UNESCO has made its decision: it prefers Palestinian membership to
American participation. Now let the rest of the U.N. specialized
agencies make their choice," he added.
Nuland said that the U.S. doesn't think it is "helpful" that the
Palestinians sought membership with UNESCO while the "Quartet" of
nations working on Mideast peace tries to get the Israelis and
Palestinians back to the negotiating table to create a two-state
"We considered that this was, as I say, regrettable, premature, and
undermined the process of getting where we want to go," she said. "It
creates tensions when all of us should be concerning our efforts to get
the parties back to the table."
Israel's ambassador to UNESCO Nimrod Barkan told Reuters that the vote
is a tragedy.
"UNESCO deals in science, not science fiction," he reportedly said.
"They forced on UNESCO a political subject out of its competence."