UNESCO to vote on Palestinian membership

WASHINGTON (JTA) — UNESCO’s decision to allow a vote to grant the Palestinians full membership prompted a U.S. warning of a funding cutoff to the U.N. body.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, a top congressional appropriator, said Wednesday’s decision by the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to allow the Palestinians’ membership bid to come to a vote this month would put U.S. funding of the organization in jeopardy.

"Since April, I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership that I would not support sending U.S. taxpayer money to the Palestinians if they sought statehood at the United Nations," Granger (R-Texas) said in a statement. "Making a move in another U.N. agency will not only jeopardize our relationship with the Palestinians, it will jeopardize our contributions to the United Nations. As chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, I will advocate for all funding to be cut off. This is consistent with current law and I will consider additional actions as needed.  

"There are consequences for short-cutting the process, not only for the Palestinians, but for our longstanding relationship with the United Nations," the statement concluded.

Granger’s statement cited U.S. law that bans funding of any institution that grants member-state status to the Palestinians.

Along with Israel and the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania opposed the vote advancing consideration of the Palestinians’ UNESCO bid. Forty countries voted in favor and 14 abstained.

A statement issued by Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that "Israel believes that the correct and only way to advance the peace process with the Palestinians is through direct, unconditional negotiations. The Palestinians’ actions at UNESCO negate both the bilateral negotiations route and the Quartet’s proposal for continuing the diplomatic process. Their actions are a negative response to Israel’s and the international community’s efforts to promote the peace process.

The statement added that "UNESCO has remained silent in the face of significant change across the Middle East, yet has found time during its current meeting to adopt six decisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decision to grant the Palestinians’ membership of UNESCO will not advance their desire for an independent state whatsoever."

The Anti-Defamation League called the decision to bring the Palestinian request to a vote “woefully premature and dangerously inappropriate.”

“The Palestinians have unduly politicized this body, and if this action is approved by the full membership, it risks undermining the truly important work of UNESCO,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a statement. 

B’nai B’rith International President Allan Jacobs said that “UNESCO, or any international organization for that matter, is not the place to grant recognition of a Palestinian state. Seeking such recognition ignores and delays the necessary discussions about what shape proposed borders would take; the very recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; security concerns, and many other issues. All such determinations can only be made directly between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

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