Monday, October 31, 2011

Steps Toward Statehood

The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has voted to admit Palestine as a member.  The vote was 107 in favor and 14 against, with 52 abstentions.  Because Palestine is not a member of the United Nations, the vote to admit it to UNESCO required a two-thirds majority of those voting. (Abstentions are not counted as votes.)

The push for membership by Palestine is part of move to gain international recognition of Palestinian statehood, a move opposed by Israel and the United States.  Because only states may be members of UNESCO (as with other UN bodies), admission indicates the support of a majority of the world's states for Palestinian statehood.  Palestine is expected to press for membership to the UN itself in the coming weeks, but because both the UN Security Council and the General Assembly must approve such an application and the U.S. Government has indicated that it will veto the Palestinian application in the Security Council, there is no possibility for clearing this particular hurdle.

U.S. law currently mandates the elimination of funding for any UN body that admits Palestine as a member.  In the case of UNESCO, this will mean the loss of one-fifth of the operating budget.