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WASHINGTON – The immediate consequence of UNESCO’s vote to grant the Palestinians membership is clear: A cutoff of American funding for the UN agency governing the protection of cultures and sharing of scientific knowledge, which stands to lose roughly a fifth of its budget.
What’s less certain is what effect the defunding, mandated by a U.S. law banning aid to UN bodies that recognize Palestinian statehood, would have on American – and, by extension, Israeli – influence worldwide.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted Monday at its General Conference in Paris to designate Palestine as a full member state. The vote at the agency’s Paris headquarters was 107 in favor to 14 opposed, with 52 abstentions.
France cast a surprise vote in favor, while Britain abstained and the United States, Israel and Germany were among the countries voting against. Cheers from the assembled delegates greeted the results.
UNESCO had been warned for weeks that a cutoff of American funding was inevitable if the agency granted full membership to the Palestinians. Among Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress, the Palestinian statehood push at the United Nations is seen as a way of circumventing Israel’s demand for a return to direct talks to negotiate a peace agreement.
“I expect the administration to enforce existing law and stop contributions to UNESCO and any other UN agency that enables the Palestinians to short-cut the peace process,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.
Granger had the backing of the committee’s senior Democrat, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).
“Consistent with current law, UNESCO’s action also has put at risk its funding from United States taxpayers, who provide more than one-fifth of UNESCO’s budget,” Lowey said in her statement. “UNESCO must understand that such irresponsible actions have serious consequences.”
Richard Stone and Malcolm Hoenlein, respectively the chairman and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a statement, “We trust that the administration and Congress will take the appropriate action under U.S. law at the earliest possible time.”
The Obama administration, for its part, acted almost immediately. By Monday afternoon it was already announcing that funding would be cut off, and that UNESCO would not get about $60 million due on Nov. 1.
“Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO triggers longstanding legislative restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contributions to UNESCO,” said a statement from Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman.
Some supporters of the Obama administration’s multilateralism, however, expressed concern about the impact that the tough U.S. line on UNESCO would have on American influence.
“Here is this old law, first written in 1990 and updated in 1994, compelling a drastic measure that doesn’t fit the offense,” said Matt Duss, a policy analyst for the Center for American Progress.
Duss outlined what he said were gains that the Obama administration has made at the United Nations: intensifying international sanctions isolating Iran and increasing awareness of human rights abuses in that country.
“The re-engagement at the United Nations has been an important agenda item for the U.S.; it’s done a lot of good,” he said. “Part of that influence is to Israel’s benefit.”
Pulling funding from UNESCO also could jeopardize many non-controversial programs administered by the body, including tsunami early-warning systems and clean water efforts in poor countries.
Conservative critics, however, reject the assertion that taking a tough line with the UN harms American interests.
“Can someone explain to me why it is this is a problem for the United States? It’s a problem for UNESCO,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
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The IDF has confirmed 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 of Kfar Saba is the soldier suspected kidnapped by Hamas on Friday.
Netanyahu called Kerry onto the carpet and Kerry and Ban Ki-Moon gave their assurances.
Hamas has learned the art of kidnapping from Hezbollah. Israel neeeds to figure out quickly how to deal with that.
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This time Hamas may have succeeded in kidnapping a soldier.
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The IDF has released names of the soldier killed on Thursday night.
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As the 8:00am deadline for the cease fire approaches, Hamas has shot a lot rockets into Israel to get their last licks: 7:32am 08-01-2014 Bnei Ayish / Gan Yavne 7:32am 08-01-2014 Bnei Ayish / Gan Yavne 7:32am 08-01-2014 Bnei Ayish / Gan Yavne, Givati 7:31am 08-01-2014 Ashdod, Bnei Ayish / Gan Yavne, Givati 7:31am 08-01-2014 […]
President Obama in an April 25 press conference seemed ready to take a break. “There may come a point at which there just needs to be a pause and both sides need to look at the alternatives,” he said.
But Israel’s stance is not sufficiently consequential to set off a fight between friends, neoconservative scholars said.
Tensions between Russia and the West are mounting over the Russian military takeover of the Crimean Peninsula, with the United States and European countries threatening to impose sanctions.
Expansive outreach, of course, is nothing new for AIPAC. But in the wake of battles over Iran sanctions legislation that pitted the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse against the White House, many congressional Democrats and liberals more generally, AIPAC’s traditional emphasis on Israel as a bipartisan issue has taken on added urgency.
Administration officials and Jewish groups sympathetic to Kerry’s initiative say there is a longer-term agenda in preempting attacks on the framework peace agreement the Obama administration is expected to propose soon.
“As we have since the beginning of the process, we continue to support Secretary Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a secure and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman said in a statement to JTA.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/u-s-reacts-swiftly-to-unesco-vote-on-palestinians/2011/11/08/
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