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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Halting UNESCO’s misguided path -- By Yleem Poblete, The Washington Times

Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times (Illustration by Greg Groesch, The Washington Times)

Congress allocates hundreds of millions to U.N agencies 

Congress returned to work with the Jan. 15 funding deadline looming as an ominous cloud over the Capitol. The American people may have, therefore, expected their elected representatives to tackle this challenge by focusing on priority programs. Yet, some members were intent on extending the holiday season, looking at the funding bill as a Christmas tree to fill with million-dollar ornaments in the form of wasteful spending.

One of these was the effort to not only restore U.S. contributions to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquartered in Paris, but to also pay back dues. To allow hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars to flow to UNESCO's coffers, Congress would need to change current law prohibiting funding to the United Nations or any of its specialized agencies recognizing a Palestinian state.

This cut-off was triggered in October 2011 when, as Palestinian terrorists launched rockets from Gaza against Israel, UNESCO admitted "Palestine" as a state. The administration immediately halted a $60 million payment due to this U.N. agency, but it chose for the United States to remain a member, thereby keeping the nation on the hook for 22 percent of the agency's operating budget — money that is in arrears.

The expectation was that members of the House and Senate appropriations and authorizing committees would capitulate to pressure from the administration and the U.N. by granting a waiver of the law on the grounds that continued financial support for UNESCO would advance U.S. interests. One oft-cited foreign policy argument was that U.S. participation in and funding of UNESCO was a necessary component of our strategy on Israeli-Palestinian issues. Similar claims were made by the administration to circumvent congressional objections and provide economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, as well as funding for Gaza-West Bank programs, including cash-for-work and tourism promotion.

After the mandated UNESCO cut-off took effect, U.N. advocates within and outside the U.S. government intensified lobbying efforts to restore the American funding pipeline. They would have prevailed in December 2011 and in 2012 were it not for the commitment of key House members

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