From South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 15 Jan 2013, by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen*:
October 31st is known to Americans as Halloween but to an agency at the United Nations, it is also a day it chose to trick the U.S. taxpayers by admitting a non-existent state of "Palestine." That act triggered current U.S. laws that precludes us from funding UNESCO or any other body at the U.N. that recognizes a Palestinian state.
After initially upholding the law, although reluctantly, now the Obama administration is lobbying Congress to undermine these laws by restoring full or partial funding by asking for a waiver to this legal prohibition.
But President Obama is not alone: UNESCO has been trying to coax members of Congress who have sites in their state or district that may be considered for designation as a World Heritage Site with the promise of bestowing upon their local treasures such a designation. The most common argument made to fund UNESCO is that a World Heritage Site designation will add to the allure of a site and bring in additional tourists, and therefore add to the local economies. However, UNESCO itself has said that owing dues will not affect the application of sites for consideration as a World Heritage site.
That's over one-third of a billion dollars total in U.S. taxpayer money to a corrupt U.N. entity that continually seeks to undermine the United States, and works against our interests at every turn.Last November, when I met with the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, she expressed to me that the administration was going to make it a priority to seek waiver authority in order to restore funding to UNESCO. The administration is seeking to not only restore almost $80 million in taxpayer funds for this fiscal year, but it is also seeking to pay nearly $250 million more in arrears to an agency that has an anti-U.S., anti-Israel agenda, because it opted to remain a part of UNESCO rather than withdrawing membership.
Aside from its anti-Israel biased agenda, UNESCO continues to mock the ideals of the body by allowing gross human rights abusers like Syria, Cuba, China, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to serve on its executive board and on its committee that examines the exercise of human rights – the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations of the Executive Board.
Just so we are clear: UNESCO opted to revoke the United States' and Israel's voting privileges for not paying dues, but allowed the brutal dictator Assad and the Syrian regime to remain on its human rights committee – even as the death toll in Syria surpasses 130,000.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority continue to refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish State of Israel and is deafeningly silent when it comes time to denounce acts of terror. I am concerned that if we even partially fund UNESCO, we are tacitly agreeing with the UN scheme to undermine the peace process by granting de facto recognition to a Palestinian state without it first coming to an agreement with Israel to resolve the conflict.
A vote to circumvent the existing laws that prohibit U.S. funding to UNESCO not only would set us on a slippery slope and embolden an already intransigent Abu Mazen and Palestinian Authority, but it would also be the impetus for other entities at the U.N. to recognize Palestine and undermine the entire peace process.
UNESCO and other U.N. organizations are free to carry out their own agendas as they see fit, but the U.S. does not need to be complicit in that. If these entities wish to make dangerous choices – choices they knew carried consequences – then the U.S. taxpayers should not subsidize them.
The U.N. is in a tragic state of disrepair. The only way we can deter other U.N. entities from following in UNESCO's footsteps and bring about any reform is to leverage our funding (some $7 billion a year in taxpayer money!) and change our mechanisms for funding the U.N.
The administration should not only abandon its quest for a waiver or partial funding, but it should do the sensible thing for the taxpayers and immediately withdraw from UNESCO so it does not irresponsibly accrue hundreds of millions of dollars of arrears payments.
*Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Republican who represents Florida's 27th congressional district. She is chairman emeritus of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and current chairman of its Middle East and North Africa subcommittee.