Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that Israel supports the Biden administration’s desire to return to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from which both Israel and the US withdrew during the Trump administration.
The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit, denouncing the Paris-based UN agency as a hub of anti-Israel bias – criticizing Israel’s annexation of eastern Jerusalem, filing ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites, and granting full membership to the imaginary State of Palestine. Both countries pulled out of UNESCO in 2019, but the US had already stopped paying its dues to the agency under President Obama, after the recognition of “Palestine.”
Blinken told the committee on Wednesday that he understood why previous administrations mistrusted UNESCO, admitting “there was a very understandable concern expressed in the past because of the Palestinians seeking admission and that going forward.” He then noted that “Congress chose to act and make it difficult for us to continue our participation.” But now, apparently, it’s time to kiss and make up with the most brazenly antisemitic arm of the UN, Blinken said, asking Congress to give the administration permission to ignore the laws that forbid the executive branch to fund anyone who unilaterally recognizes a Palestinian state.
“We believe that having the waiver authority would be important and necessary,” Blinken told Congress, reassuring it, “I can say with authority that our partners in Israel feel the same way — they would support our rejoining UNESCO.”
MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism) tweeted an angry response to the notion that the Israeli government favors a US return to UNESCO: “Was there anyone here who claimed that at the political level this government is continuing its predecessors? Israel and the United States have left UNESCO, the organization that claimed the Cave of the Patriarchs is a Palestinian heritage site. And now Israel supports the return of the United States to that organization? We are being sold in a liquidation sale.”
Blinken told the Senate committee that the US absence “is clearly to our detriment because, among other things, UNESCO is in the business of setting standards, norms around the world, for education, for the way new emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence, are used. When we’re not at the table, shaping that conversation, and so actually helping to shape those norms and standards — well, someone else is, and that someone else is probably China.”
Blinken noted that by renewing its membership in the UN Human Rights Council, which Trump left, also over its unfair treatment of Israel, the US is now in a better position to resist the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Because we’re back on the Human Rights Council, we were able to lead in the creation of this Commission of Inquiry for Ukraine,” the Secretary of State said, referring to an upcoming investigation by the UNHRC of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Ah, well, then it’s all worth it…