Boehner: GOP House Will Consider Obama's Request for U.S. Aid to UNESCO--Which Recognizes 'Palestine'

February 16, 2012 - 1:17 PM

John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) - House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will consider President Barack Obama's request, included in his new budget, to provide $79 million in U.S. aid to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Under U.S. law, the U.S. cannot fund any U.N. organization that recognizes Palestine as a state, which UNESCO does.

At his Thursday press briefing, CNSNews.com asked Boehner: "President Obama’s budget calls for giving ... $79 million in aid to UNESCO even though U.S. law forbids funding UN organizations that recognize Palestine. UNESCO has now done that. Should Congress fund UNESCO given its recognition of Palestine?"

Boehner responded: "I think our committees will be looking at this during the appropriations hearings into the issue.  We’ll make some decision but we’ll let the committee process on the floor do its job."

Last fall, UNESCO voted to admit "Palestine" and the U.S. government, in keeping with U.S. law, cut off its funding of UNESCO. This was a significant blow to UNESCO which had received 22 percent of its funding from the U.S. government. It also sent a sharp warning to other U.N. agencies that might consider admitting "Palestine" as a state.

However, the fiscal 2013 budget that President Obama submitted to Congress this week calls for restoring U.S. aid to UNESCO and sending the agency $79 million dollars in 2013.

In 1990, President Bush signed into law a requirement that prohibits funding for “the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”

President Clinton in 1994 signed a second law that prohibits a “voluntary or assessed contribution 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.”

Boehner's statement that the Republican House will consider Obama's request to aid UNESCO contrasts dramatically with the posture taken by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The Palestinian leadership’s dangerous statehood scheme at the U.N. was dealt a significant blow last year after the U.S. cut off funding to UNESCO due to its admission of ‘Palestine,’” Ros-Lehtinen said Wednesday.

“Resuming U.S. funding would give a green light for other U.N. bodies to follow in UNESCO’s footsteps and support the Palestinian statehood push,” she said.

“Any effort to walk back this funding cutoff will pave the way for the Palestinian leadership’s unilateral statehood scheme to drive on, and sends a disastrous message that the U.S. will fund UN bodies no matter what irresponsible decisions they make,” said Ros-Lehtinen.