Obama Administration May Sidestep Law on UNESCO Funding

Monday, 31 Oct 2011 03:35 PM

By Jim Meyers

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The Obama administration has hinted that it could seek to evade legal requirements that the United States cease funding of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) following a vote to approve the Palestinian Authority’s full membership in the agency.

Two laws that Congress passed in the 1990s require the United States to cut UNESCO funding if the agency admits Palestine, and the United Nations voted on Monday to make the Palestinian Authority a member. The State Department has announced that the United States has stopped funding UNESCO because of the vote.

But according to The New York Times, “David T. Killion, the American ambassador [to UNESCO], said that the United States, ‘remains deeply committed’ to UNESCO. But he said that Monday’s decision, which he repeatedly called premature, ‘will complicate our ability to support UNESCO.’ The United States will seek other means to support the agency, Mr. Killion said, although he did not offer specifics about any avenues under consideration.”

Jonathan S. Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, observed: “While it is difficult to understand exactly what Killion means by that, it seems to indicate the Obama administration will seek to evade the restrictions enacted by Congress in order to go on supporting the problematic U.N. agency. Doing so will not only undermine the rule of law, it will send a very loud signal to the world the administration places a higher priority on its devotion to the U.N. than it does support for Israel.”

UNESCO receives 22 percent of its operating budget from the United States, about $80 million a year.

“This will put Obama on the spot on an issue where his need to be seen as a friend of Israel will conflict with his devotion to the United Nations,” Tobin writes.

“If the United States remains fully involved in UNESCO and tries some financial jujitsu to cloak the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer funds on the agency, it will be a clear signal about his priorities.

“The ‘other means’ by which Obama will seek to back UNESCO may rescue the agency, but it could do him some real political harm.”



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