U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Susan Rice encouraged Congress to change federal law that currently withholds U.S. dollars from UN organizations that admit Palestine as a Member State without a preceding agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. In a budget hearing before the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, Ambassador Rice declared the Administration’s position:
Current U.S. law runs counter to U.S. national security interests by enabling the Palestinians to determine whether the U.S. can continue to fund and lead effectively in key UN specialized agencies that help protect Americans…. We believe our membership and participation in UNESCO is valuable and worth supporting. Therefore, the Administration’s budget request includes funding for the U.S. contribution to UNESCO and a statement of intent to work together with Congress to find a solution that would give the Administration the authority to waive restrictions on paying our financial contributions when doing so is clearly in our national interest.
Among those who countered, Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) stated, “An immediate halt in UN funding sends a powerful message to all other UN bodies, as well as the Palestinians, that the U.S. is serious about its support for a negotiated peace.”
On October 31, 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to admit Palestine as a Member State. Following the vote, the U.S. State Department announced that, in accordance with U.S. law, UNESCO’s action triggered a withholding of U.S. funds to the international agency. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has also submitted an application for full UN membership.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations