Daily Israel Report

Clinton: UNESCO May Endanger US Funds if it Admits PA as Member

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says UNESCO should re-think its plans to allow the PA full membership, hints at U.S. fund cut.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 10/6/2011, 10:20 AM

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) should re-think its plans to vote on allowing the Palestinian Authority full membership.

Reuters reported that Clinton noted that such a move by UNESCO could cause the United States to cut funds for the organization.

Speaking to reporters in the Dominican Republic, Clinton said she found it “inexplicable” that UNESCO would consider moving ahead on voting to allow the PA membership while its statehood bid was still before the United Nations Security Council.

“I ... would urge the governing body of UNESCO to think again before proceeding with that vote because the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups that are subsidiary to the United Nations,” Clinton was quoted as having said.

Earlier on Wednesday, UNESCO’s board decided to let 193 member countries vote on admitting the PA.

A source at the agency told Reuters that 40 representatives of the 58-member board voted in favor of putting the matter to a vote. Four members -- the United States, Germany, Romania and Latvia -- voted against and the remaining 14 abstained.

The PA submitted an application to the U.N. Security Council last month, demanding full membership and recognition as a sovereign nation with its boundaries along the 1949 Armistice Lines, and claiming much of Israel's capital city, Jerusalem, as its own capital.

Currently the PA holds observer status in the U.N. and in UNESCO, but may have a good chance of winning full membership, since the process for doing so is easier than it is in the full U.N.

However, this is not the first time the PA has attempted to gain full membership in UNESCO, and in the past, the attempt has failed.

Clinton said moves such as this sidestep key issues that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between Israel and the PA.

“Unfortunately there are those who, in their enthusiasm to recognize the aspirations of the Palestinian people, are skipping over the most important step which is determining what the state will look like, what its borders are, how it will deal with the myriad issues that states must address,” she was quoted as saying.

Clinton noted that the United States, which pays 22 percent of UNESCO’s dues, might be required by law to cut off its funding if UNESCO were to accept the PA as a member.

“We are certainly aware of strong legislative prohibition that prevents the United States from funding organizations that jump the gun, so to speak, in recognizing entities before they are fully ready for such recognition,” she said, adding: “It is still our hope and our strong recommendation that we take this to the appropriate forum which is the negotiating table.”

Earlier, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called on lawmakers to cut off U.S. funds to UNESCO if the PA effort succeeds.