Palestine Joins UNESCO As A Full Member State

In a move that considerably boosted the Palestinians' bid for full membership at the United Nations, UNESCO voted overwhelmingly and admitted Palestine as a full member state.
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Oct. 31, 2011 - PRLog -- Handing the United States and Israel their worst diplomatic defeat in years, the general assembly of UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, met at its Paris-based headquarters this morning during its 36th general conference and voted overwhelmingly and admitted Palestine as a full member.

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," US Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter told delegates ahead of the vote.  “The only path for the Palestinians is through direct negotiations.”

Still, the diplomatic campaign unleashed by the US, Israel’s staunchest ally, has failed to dampen the Palestinians’ stiff determination to seek full membership in the cultural agency, one of many UN agencies eyed as they forged ahead with their status bid.  “What this shows is that the United States is completely isolated on the world’s stage on the Palestinian issue,” twitted one supporter, adding, “The world no longer functions with threats and blackmail.”

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’ statehood bid, as they have now seized the momentum, according to analysts.  "This is a clear sign as to where this is heading," explained one diplomat, speaking on the sideline of the meeting.

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Mithout Gomez is a veteran journalist who's covered local, national and international issues for several New York-based newspapers.
Source:Mithout Gomez
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Tags:Diplomacy, United Nations, Unesco, Palestine, Israel, United States, Security Council, General Assembly, Washington
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