US takes steps to revert to UN cultural body; renounce anti-Palestinian senatorial law – Middle East Monitor

United States to join United Nations cultural agency UNESCO, four years after former President Donald Trump withdrew the country over accusations of anti-Israel bias, sources said in Congress and diplomatic. Reuters.

The United States provided one-fifth of the funding for the Paris-based agency, but Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, stopped paying in 2011 when Palestine became a full member because it is prohibited by the United States. American law. Washington owed $ 542 million when he resigned.

Under anti-Palestinian Senate legislation, the United States would be required to withdraw from UNESCO if Palestinians joined other UN agencies. Washington is also expected to leave these bodies.

To become law, the supply bill containing the waiver would have to pass both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and congressional leaders have given no indication of when such a vote could take place.

However, encouraged by President Joe Biden’s administration, the Senate Appropriations Committee this week introduced legislation to override that law if Biden – and the relevant committees of Congress – believe joining UNESCO would allow Washington to counteract that law. Chinese influence or to promote other American interests.

“We have nothing to announce on UNESCO at the moment,” said an American diplomat.

Israel also withdrew from UNESCO at the same time as the United States. A Western diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel wanted to return, but was waiting for Washington to act first.

UNESCO said in a statement that the return of the United States and Israel would be “good news” and sees “real hope” for their return, but “the timing and modalities … have yet to be defined “.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, who is due to be re-elected next month, visited the United States last month. She lobbied Biden’s wife Jill, who has been involved in previous UNESCO education programs, as well as senators, a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment when asked about a potential return to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

It is best known for designating and protecting archaeological and heritage sites, from the Galapagos Islands to the tombs of Timbuktu.

Diplomats said that while Israel and the Palestinians clashed at UNESCO in the past, the two sides are now cooperating under UNESCO’s mediation, even though Israel is not a member.

Israel and UNESCO

Israel joined UNESCO in 1949 and left it in 2019.

Israel was furious with UNESCO after the UN agency passed several resolutions asserting Palestinian rights in the cities of Jerusalem and Hebron.

In October 2017, UNESCO decided to inscribe the city of Hebron and the Haram al-Ibrahimi Mosque, revered by both Muslims and Jews, on the World Heritage List.

Also in 2017, UNESCO voted in favor of a resolution that denied any link between the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Judaism; Israel relies on such a claim to recognize the Muslim holy place as the “Temple Mount”.

In May 2018, UNESCO ruled that Israel was an “occupying power” and condemned illegal Israeli activities in occupied East Jerusalem a month later. Another resolution was adopted by UNESCO in June 2018 which considered the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls as one of the threatened World Heritage sites.

In response, Israel and the United States have repeatedly cut funding to UNESCO, accusing it of “anti-Semitism”.

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