The vote was 107 in favor and 14 against, with 52 abstentions. Palestine’s entry now brings the number of UNESCO’s member states to 195.
The vote -- which pitted the United States and Israel against a growing number of countries clamoring for a change of status for the Palestinians -- is seen by many as a humiliating defeat for US foreign policy toward the Palestinians.
The United States provides 22 percent of UNESCO’s funding or $70 million in annual funding to the agency and is bound by law to cut off funding based on a law passed by Congress in the 1990's that automatically withdraw funding to any UN agency that vote to admit Palestine as a full member. Many around the world have called that policy counterproductive, with some critics going as far as labelling it as "blackmail."
Washington and its European allies have mounted a vigorous diplomatic campaign in recent days in an attempt to convince many countries against the vote, arguing a cut-off in aid would cripple UNESCO’s ability to function. “We believe this is counterproductive,"
Still, the diplomatic campaign unleashed by the US, Israel’s staunchest ally, has failed to dampen the Palestinians’
Palestine’s application for full membership at the United Nations Security Council, where the US has vowed to veto the measure, is still being debated by a committee of experts and will be submitted for a full vote in November.
There is no veto at the UNESCO general assembly, where a mere two thirds majority remains the only requirement. The vote provides a considerable boost to the Palestinians’
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Mithout Gomez is a veteran journalist who's covered local, national and international issues for several New York-based newspapers.