Washington responded to the admission of the Palestinian Authority to UNESCO by pulling out of the organization, but without leaving it formally. This is what the Reagan administration had done in 1984 for similar reasons. But this reflex response poses unexpected problems to the State Department.

First, it is difficult to fathom in what way cutting funds for education programs in the world will advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. Second, it is baffling to hear Washington advocate multilateralism and sulk the minute it is relegated to the minority.

Above all, the Palestinian Authority now hopes to join 16 other intergovernmental agencies where it will receive a favorable vote. Now, if Washington has never taken an interest in an institution dedicated to education and culture, it will find it more difficult to withdraw from the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency or the World Intellectual Property Organization without losing clout or suffering serious economic damage.

However, the isolationists in Congress are willing to make an alliance with the Zionists and use this situation to obtain a general withdrawal of the United States from the UN system, in a pattern similar to the U.S. refusal to join the League of Nations in 1920.