UNESCO Facing Fund Cuts, US Backlash After Accepting Palestine Membership

UNESCO is set to lose 22 percent of its funding after voting Palestine into its organization today, as U.S. government laws prohibit supporting international programs that contradict American interests.

The U.S. has long stood in opposition to Palestine’s recognition by the U.N., and Monday’s decision is set to stir controversial matters further. The State department called a conference Monday afternoon in Foggy Bottom, Washington D.C., where two-dozen U.S. tech and pharmaceutical companies were invited to discuss the matter and propose a solution.

The White House has long supported the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the U.S. government donates $80 million annually towards the program. It allows the U.S. to conduct business in developing countries, and cutting off the funding would pose a big problem to some of American’s top companies, such as Microsoft, Google and Apple.

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The law in question states: "No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states."

Attempts to urge Congress to waive the law are expected to see stiff opposition from Jewish donors and members of the U.S. government.

Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) have already moved to oppose any such changes to the law, sending a letter to other legislators that read:

 “Congress must send a powerful message that everything is done to block full membership of the Palestinian Authority to UNESCO, the UN Security Council, and other UN agencies. Such a move would be detrimental to Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East, as well as UN programs around the globe.”

Palestine is continuing to seek full membership to the U.N. General Assembly, which will face further opposition by the American government. It is expected that the U.S. will veto a Security Council vote granting Palestine such a status, urging first a peace agreement to be reached with Israel.

Speaking to Reuters, UNESCO Israel Ambassador described the decision on Palestine as a “tragedy”, and said that "They forced on UNESCO a political subject out of its competence."

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