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Palestinians Win Preliminary Vote for UNESCO Membership

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Palestinians Win Preliminary Vote for UNESCO Membership

Yesterday, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Executive Board voted 40-4 (with 14 countries absenting), approving a draft resolution for Palestinian membership. For the Palestinians to gain actual membership, the final resolution would need to be approved by UNESCO’s 193-nation General Conference, which will be meeting next month.

The United States was one of the four countries opposing the resolution—along with Germany, Latvia and Romania—and hopes to block the vote at the General Conference. US Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion stated, "Granting the Palestinians full membership now in a specialized agency such as UNESCO is premature. Given that the UN Security Council is reviewing the Palestinian application, we believe it is inappropriate for a UN specialized agency to also take up the same matter."

If the Palestinians gain membership to UNESCO, the US may be bound by existing legislation to stop payments to the organization. The State Department confirmed that lawyers are researching the issue to determine how exactly Palestinian membership could affect US dues and contributions to UNESCO, which make up 22 percent of the organization's budget.

UNESCO, which is involved in the protection of historical and cultural landmarks, has released decisions in the past that denied Israeli and Jewish connections to holy sites. Palestinian membership might further promote this agenda and would likely add to additional conflict over religious sites throughout Jerusalem.

The United States, Israel and other Quartet members continue to pressure the Palestinians to return to direct, bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions, in place of pursing their Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

Date: 10/6/2011
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