The U.S. cut off funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday after the U.N. organization became the first to admit Palestine as a full member state.
A 1994 law bars U.S. contributions "to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood."
The U.S. was one of 14 countries to vote against the UNESCO measure to recognize Palestine. 107 member countries voted in favor and 52 abstained.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice called the vote “deeply damaging to UNESCO” over Twitter on Monday, and a number of other lawmakers were quick to condemn the vote, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Today’s reckless action by UNESCO is anti-Israel and anti-peace,” she said in a statement. “It rewards the Palestinian leadership’s dangerous scheme to bypass negotiations with Israel and seek recognition of a self-declared ‘Palestinian state,’ and takes us further from peace in the Middle East.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it’s unfortunate that UNESCO is “forcing the U.S. to take such drastic steps.”
“Today’s UNESCO vote to recognize Palestine as a member state is an unacceptable attempt by the Palestinians to circum[vent] the peace negotiation process,” Menendez said. “This is a symbolic vote, but one that will harm the attempts at restarting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. I strongly urge the State Department to enforce U.S. law and immediately cut off all funding to UNESCO and any other international organization that recognizes a Palestinian state.”
Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) issued a joint statement, saying the vote occurred without negotiating a resolution to the Middle East dispute involving Israel:
"The Palestinian effort to gain recognition at the United Nations and UNESCO is severely misguided. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute can only be resolved in bilateral negotiations. Such counterproductive Palestinian efforts at the U.N. only [serve] to undermine the peace process.”