Director-General Says Israel Will Not be Returning to UNESCO

Director-General Says Israel Will Not be Returning to UNESCO

In recent news, the Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, Alon Ushpiz, revealed that the State of Israel will not be making a return to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at a time like this. Ushpiz was quite adamant about this move, despite the fact that the US is weighing this action. In the last decade, the Jewish state and UNESCO have had quite a tumultuous relationship. This is primarily because the latter was the first body of the United Nations (UN) to take in Palestine as a member state in the year 2011. 

However, UNESCO had done so independently of the governing organization, whose General Assembly had previously granted de-facto recognition of statehood to the Palestinians, once it had upgraded its status to non-member state from observer mission, back in the year 2012. Ushpiz made a reference to the statehood decision made by UNESCO back in 2011. He further stated that if the country chose to return to this particular body of the UN, it could be seen as showing support for the statehood status granted to Palestine. 

He went on to add that rejoining UNESCO would have an impact on the way the international community views the PA. In addition, Israel would be standing against what it believes, which is that PA is not a state. After this move by UNESCO in 2011, both the United States and Israel decided to stop paying their dues to it. Consequently, in the year 2013, the two countries lost their voting rights to it. The balance that both the countries owing to the body of the UN went on to grow each year. However, in the year 2019, the Trump administration completely withdrew from the organization. The Jewish state followed in its footsteps and stepped back as well. 

In recent times, on the other hand, the Biden administration has expressed that it wants to renew its ties with UNESCO. It has decided to return to the body and rejoin as a voting member, an action that is only possible with approval from Congress. However, an edict of Congress prohibits the US to provide funding to ny kind of UN organization that grants complete membership to a group, which does not possess ‘internally recognized attributes’. By this definition, the fact that UNESCO granted PA statehood puts US funding, to the organization, in jeopardy. 

This legalization was the one that mandated that the Obama administration put an end to the payments it was making to UNESCO. The Congress will, therefore, be required to rescind this particular legislation, if the Biden administration hopes to once again engage with UNESCO. Reports have surfaced that the Biden administration has been urging Israel to return to the body of the UN as well, in an attempt to drum up support from the congress for their own engagement. However, Ushpiz dismissed any such report, saying that there has been no pressure from the US to do so. He went on to say that nothing has been discussed of this kind by the two countries. 

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