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We were disappointed by the Obama administration’s announcement that it intended to ask Congress to waive a ban on funding UNESCO because of its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

U.S. funding for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was stopped late last year because of laws banning U.S. funding of any international organization that recognizes Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. American law bars U.S. contributions to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants fall membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes statehood.”

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Unfortunately, at the time of the UNESCO controversy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while urging the Palestinians to back off their effort to win UNESCO recognition and warning UNESCO stay out of the political thicket, also told reporters she was “strongly making the case to members of Congress that at some point we need some flexibility because pretty soon, if we don’t pay into these organizations, we lose our right to participate and influence their actions.”

Perhaps. But it would seem a matter of fundamental statecraft that there is no profit in ignoring national law. What is the message when a government seeks an end-run around its own laws in a transparent effort to accommodate an adversary?

As New York Congressman Gary Ackerman put it, while he supports the work of UNESCO, “actions have consequences…. We told the other members of UNESCO that U.S. law would compel us to withhold our funding…. Now both we and they have to live with the consequences…”

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