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November 11, 2011

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 11, 2011 What happens now that the U.S. has cut U] 00TESCO funds? By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- The immediate consequence of UNESCO's vote to grant the Palestinians member- ship is clear: A cutoff of American funding for the U.N. agency governing the protection of cultures and sharing of scientific knowl- edge, which stands to lose roughly a fifth of its budget. What's less certain is what effect the defunding, mandated by a U.S. law banning aid to U.N. bodies that recognize Palestinian statehood, would have on American--and, by ex- tension, Israeli--influence worldwide. The United Nations Edu- cational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted Nov. 31 at its General Con- ference in Paris to designate Palestine as a full member state. The vote at the agen- cy's Paris headquarters was 107 in favor to 14 opposed, with 52 abstentions. France cast a surprise vote in favor, while Britain abstained and the United States, Israel and Germany were among the countries voting against. Cheers from the assembled delegates greeted the results. UNESCO had been warned for weeks that a cutoff of American funding was inevitable if the agency granted full membership to the Palestinians. Among Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress, the Palestinian statehood push at the United Nations is seen as a way of circumventing Israel's demand for a return to direct talks to negotiate a peace agreement. "I expect the Adminis- tration to enforce existing law and stop contributions to UNESCO and any other U.N. agency that enables the Palestinians to short- cut the peace process," Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropria- tions Committee, said in a statement. Granger had the backing of the committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). "Consistent with current law, UNESCO's action also has put at risk its funding from United States tax- payers, who provide more than one-fifth of UNESCO's budget," Lowey said in her statement. "UNESCO must understand that such ir- responsible actions have serious consequences." Richard Stone and Mal- colm Hoenlein, respectively the chairman and executive vice chairman of the Confer- ence of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organiza- tions, said in a statement, "We trust that the Admin- istration and Congress will take the appropriate action under U.S. law at the earliest possible time." The Obama administra- tion, for its part, acted al- most immediately. By that afternoon it was already announcing that funding would be cut off, and that UNESCOwould not get about $60 million due on Nov. 1. "Palestinian membership as a state in UNESCO trig- gers longstanding legisla- tive restrictions which will compel the United States to refrain from making contri- butions to UNESCO," said a statement from Victoria Nuland, the State Depart- ment spokeswoman. Susan Rice, the U.S. en- voy to the United Nations, tweeted: "Today's vote to grant Palestinian member- ship in UNESCO is no substi- tute for direct negotiations, but it is deeply damaging to UNESCO." Some supporters of the Obama administration's multilateralism, however, expressed concern about the impact that the tough U.S. line on UNESCO would have on American influence. "Here is this old law, first written in 1990 and updated in 1994, compelling a drastic measure that doesn't fit the offense," said Matt Duss, a policy analyst for the Center for American Progress. Duss outlined what he said were gains that the Obama administration has made at the United Nations: intensifying international sanctions isolating Iran and increasing awareness of human rights abuses in that country. "The re-engagement at the United Nations has been an important agenda item for the U.S.; it's done a lot of good," he said. "Part of that influence is to Israel's benefit." Pulling funding from UNESCO also could jeopar- dize many non-controversial programs administered by the body, including tsunami early warning systems and clean water efforts in poor countries. Conservative critics, how- ever, reject the assertion that taking a tough line with the U.N. harms American interests. "Can someone explain to me why it is this is a problem for the United States? It's a problem for UNESCO," said Danielle Pletka, vice presi- dent for foreign and defense policy studies at the Ameri- can Enterprise Institute. 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CONTRIBUTIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTABLE TO THE EXTENT PERMIrI"EO BY LAW David Lisbona/Creative Commons UNESCO designated Tel Aviv's "White City"--its 4,000 Bauhaus buildingsa heritage site in 2003, facilitating funds for rehabilitation projects. funding from the United States is more important than their support for the bureaucratic creation of a Palestinian state." For its part, the Obama administration had im- mediate concerns: Drawing back from UNESCO could have repercussions with an affiliated body, the World Intellectual Property Or- ganization. Officials from the State Department and the Patent Office briefed "representatives from lead- ing industries" on Oct. 31 on the possible repercus- sions on protecting overseas copyrights. "The United States s a leading global voice on issues related to patent, copyright and trademark matters, and should the U.S. be unable to provide its contributions to WIPO, the impact of that voice could be significantly diminished," a State Depart- ment statement said. Politico reported that representatives of Apple, Google, Microsoft, the Mo- tion Picture Association of America, PhRMA and the Recording Industry Associa- tion of America attended--a signal that the Obama ad- ministration was ready to bring in big guns to lobby Congress on the issue. The statement from Nu- land emphasized that the administration was explor- ing its options. "The United States will maintain its membership in and commitment to UNESCO, andwe will consult with Congress to ensure that U.S. interests and influence are preserved," Nuland said. Liberal Israel advocacy groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now urged Congress to reconsider the laws that prompted the funding cutoff. "Existing legislation re- garding the U.N. and the Palestinians must be amended to include sufficient flexibility to protect U.S. national secu- rity interests," Americans for Peace Now said in a statement. Leading House Republi- cans seem focused on further ratcheting up the pressure to derail the Palestinian U.N. campaign. In response to the UNESCO vote, Rep. Il- eana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, quickly announced a briefing for Nov. 3 on "How to drop the Palestinian statehood scheme at the U.N.: UNESCO and beyond." Ros-Lehtinen has introduced a bill that would reinforce existing laws banning funding to international bodies that grant full membership to the Palestinians. Israel praised the United States for its swift action. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.S. de- funding announcement was further evidence of a "strong and solid" alliance with Israel. Yet Israel did not commit to withdraw its own fund- ing of UNESCO, amounting to about 3 percent of the agency's budget, or to pull out of the organization. An Israeli official told JTA that the government is consider- ing its options. UNESCO is one of the few multilateral bodies where Israel's concerns have re- ceived a sympathetic hearing; UNESCO runs Holocaust education programs in coun- tries that have otherwise been hostile to such learning. While Israel has some- times clashed with UNES- CO-such as in 2010, when UNESCO declared that Ra- chel's Tomb near Bethlehem and Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs are "an integral part of the occupied Palestin- ian Territories'--the agency also has taken actions that are seen as friendly. In 2003, UNESCO designated Tel Aviv's Bauhaus blocks--the "White City"--as a world heritage site, which facili- tates international fundrais- ing for historic preservation. The Israeli official said the government was weigh- ing such successes with the agency against the damage that he said the Palestinian membership vote did to the peace process. "I don't see how it's con- ducive to the goal of achiev- ing reconciliation," said the official. Noting the recent resump- tion of rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel, the of- ficial said, "While they were accepting the Palestinians to UNESCO, Israelis were in their shelters. So who is the actor you accepted to UNESCO?"