After UNESCO Palestine vote, could US defund nuclear watchdog IAEA, too?
The US withdrew funding after UNESCO's Palestine vote yesterday. There's no reason that Palestinians won't be able to muster the votes for recognition in other UN agencies like the International Atomic Energy Agency.
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All of this puts the United States in a bind. Though the State Department said it wants to continue to work with UNESCO, even as it cuts funding, it's hard to see how. The Obama administration is expected to reach out to Congress to find a way both to continue to funding UNESCO, and give the US government flexibility if Palestine is recognized as a member by other, more important UN organizations.Skip to next paragraph
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Whether it will get very far in that appeal is another matter. A number of pro-Israel congressmen and congresswomen have publicly backed the cut-off of aid, and called for further steps to punish the UN for the voting patterns of its members and the Palestinians for seeking membership.
Kay Granger (R) of Texas, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, said in a letter that she will seek to cut off aid to the Palestinians if they seek to join more UN bodies and implied that more UN funding could be cut as well.
"I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership that I would not support sending US taxpayer money to the Palestinians if they sought statehood at the United Nations," she wrote. "Making a move in another UN agency will not only jeopardize our relationship with the Palestinians, it will jeopardize our contributions to the United Nations.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) of Florida, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was scathing in a brief statement yesterday that was quoted by the Washington Post. "Today’s reckless action by UNESCO is anti-Israel and anti-peace,” she said. “It rewards the Palestinian leadership’s dangerous scheme to bypass negotiations with Israel and seek recognition of a self-declared ‘Palestinian state,’ and takes us further from peace in the Middle East.”
Given the overall pro-Israel mood in Congress, it will be interesting to see if the legislation's requirements will be eased. Israel has been furious over the UNESCO vote. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government described the 107-14 vote in favor of UNESCO membership (with 52 abstentions) as a "unilateral" and destabilizing move, and his cabinet is considering responses today, which might include cutting off the flow of tax revenue that Israel collects on the behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of the photo caption mischaracterized UNESCO.]