The Biden administration is looking for a legal loophole to allow it to rejoin and fund UNESCO.
By World Israel News staff
The Biden administration is urging Israel to rejoin United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as it seeks to find a way to resume funding the UN body.
The U.S. pulled out of UNESCO in October 2017, with Israel shortly following suit, over concerns that the organization had an anti-Israel bias.
Marking the withdrawal in early 2019, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Danny Danon declared that “UNESCO is a body that continues to rewrite history, among other things, by attempts to erase the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Israel will not be a member of an organization dedicated to acting against it and which has a tool manipulated by Israel’s enemies.”
While UNESCO has declared several Israeli locations as world heritage sites, Danon was referring to a move in 2016 when the Palestinian Authority and Arab states pushed forward resolutions which ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, describing the holiest sites to Judaism solely by their Muslim names of al-Haram al-Sharif and the Buraq Plaza.
The organization also rejected Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. In 2017, UNESCO declared Hebron an endangered Palestinian world heritage site, even though that city, home to the Cave of the Patriarchs, is considered one of the holiest to Judaism. At the time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the move, calling it “yet another delusional decision by UNESCO.”
However, the Biden administration is taking a different stance, according to a report by Israel Hayom.
UNESCO was originally co-founded following the Second World War to foster peace between nations, with some 20% of funding for the organization coming from the U.S. That funding came to an end in 2011 when the Palestinian Authority became a member, forcing President Obama to suspended payments in line with U.S. law.
Now the Senate Appropriations Committee is looking for a way both to rejoin the organization, and to hand over some $500 million in missed payments, without falling foul of the law.
One option is to devise a waver scheme, giving the U.S. a route back in, but according to Middle East Monitor, such a scheme would have to be approved by both the House and Senate, which is unlikely.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration is already putting pressure on Israel to do the same. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield raised the matter during her visit to Israel last week, and the matter is also reported by Israel Hayom to have been broached by “several U.S. officials in conversations with their Israeli counterparts.”
So far, Jerusalem has not given a response.