185th Executive Board
Explanation of Vote
Delivered by United States Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO David T. Killion
My delegation would like to explain its vote on these resolutions.
We take the floor to express our disappointment at the outcome of these agenda items and explain our vote against these draft decisions. The United States is a Member State of UNESCO because of our belief that this institution can be a key forum for constructive action on important issues concerning education, science, and culture. In light of these goals, we are deeply troubled to be presented with a slate of decisions so full of political elements and one-sided references that they shed no light on the real challenges of the issue at hand, namely educational and cultural institutions in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.
More and more, UNESCO is exploited as a means to single out Israel. This undermines UNESCO’s credibility. The United States strongly encourages the Executive Board to seek an alternative to highly politicized decisions and seemingly permanent agenda items focused only on one country.
The United States has always joined consensus on the items related to the Mughrabi Ascent, Jerusalem, Gaza, and educational and cultural institutions in the Palestinian Territories because the decisions have always noted UNESCO’s accomplishments, cited continuing challenges, and encouraged all parties to work together toward a common goal consistent with UNESCO’s competencies.
We cannot join consensus on these items today. The sponsoring delegations’ unwillingness to negotiate has resulted in draft decisions that are one-sided, empty political condemnations that barely address the subject matter at hand. These decisions are unhelpful to all involved parties and a waste of the Executive Board’s time.
As for Item 37, the United States has raised our concerns about these West Bank sites being listed as Israeli National Heritage sites directly to senior Israeli officials. We recognize the deep religious and historical ties that Jews, Christians, and Muslims have to these sites. In this context, we have asked both parties to avoid provocative and unilateral actions, whether intended or not, that undermine trust and efforts to resume negotiations that will bring an end to the conflict and result in a two-state solution.
Israel says its action was never intended to stake out territorial claims, but was rather a reflection of historic cultural connections. We hope and trust that is the case.
However, the draft decision before us singles-out Israel, vaguely comments on supposed violations of United Nations and Security Council resolutions, and draws conclusions about jurisdiction over the sites. UNESCO’s expertise does not lie in accounting for the work of other United Nations bodies, pointing fingers in matters of a political nature, or deciding territorial claims. We cannot support this draft decision, which supposes authority that UNESCO does not and should not possess.