US, Israel to withdraw funds if UNESCO accepts Palestinian bid

Israel is resigned to the Palestinians winning today’s UNESCO general assembly vote to enter the UN cultural body and will join the US in withdrawing funding, Israeli envoy Nimrod Barkan told AFP.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki, left, is seen with historian and Ambassador for Palestine at UNESCO Elias Sanbar, left, during a session of UNESCO's 36th General Conference, in Paris. AP Photo.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki, left, is seen with historian and Ambassador for Palestine at UNESCO Elias Sanbar, left, during a session of UNESCO's 36th General Conference, in Paris. AP Photo.

“There will be a vote and the Palestinians will win,” Barkan said. “That’s the headcount that we have,” he said of the Palestinian membership bid that requires a two-thirds majority of its 193 voting members to succeed.

Staunch Israel ally the United States in the 1990s banned the financing of any United Nations organization that accepts Palestine as a full member, meaning the body would lose $70 million, or 22 percent of its annual budget.

Barkan said that Israel would likely join the US in withdrawing funds — another around three percent of UNESCO’s budget — although “it will make it impossible for UNESCO to fulfil its mission.” “I don’t think we will continue to pay our annual dues and we will follow the Americans in this, so about a quarter of funding will be taken away… it will make it impossible for UNESCO to fulfil its mission.” With the Palestinians also seeking membership of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Barkan said: “There is potential for a cascading effect of this resolution on many other UN specialised agencies and in New York.”

United States also voiced concern over the bid. Today’s vote on the Palestinians joining UNESCO is counterproductive and premature, United States Undersecretary for Education Martha Kanter told the UN cultural body’s general assembly.

“We think it’s counterproductive, it’s a premature step,” Kanter said ahead of the vote on the Palestinian membership bid that requires a two-thirds majority of its 193 voting members to succeed.

Monday, October 31, 2011
PARIS – Agence France-Presse