Israeli Ambassador Nimrod Barkan huffed and puffed after his country’s Palestinian colony was admitted into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday. Washington, bound by law, promised to cut off all U.S. funding for the organization, whose mission “is to contribute to the building of peace.”

(More on UNESCO and its mission here.)

This decision is quite separate from the issue of whether Palestine will be recognized as an independent member state by the United Nations, an issue that is yet to be decided. President Barack Obama and the conservative government of Israel are vehemently opposed to any international recognition.

Part of UNESCO’s work is to identify and protect World Heritage Sites, of which there ought to be many in the occupied territories, which include the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

UNESCO will lose $60 million, or nearly a quarter of its funding, because U.S. legislation from the 1990s “mandates a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member,” reports The New York Times.

President Obama had this to say at his Sept. 21 address to the General Assembly:

Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us — who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.

Even if you take that argument for granted — that peace will not be found in the global center of diplomacy, but through the direct negotiations that have gone nowhere for decades — it’s an argument that the Palestinians would not find peace in the United Nations, not an argument that joining the U.N. would leave the Palestinians any worse off than they are now. And for now, they have UNESCO.

— Peter Z. Scheer

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