Palestine won full admission into UNESCO, the United Nations science, education and cultural heritage organization, in a closely watched vote in Paris Monday. Global diplomacy hands view the 107-14 vote as a benchmark carrying larger implications for the Palestinians' bid for state recognition before the UN Security Council. Both the United States and Israel have strongly opposed both initiatives.
The United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Australia were among the 14 nations voting against the Palestinians' UNESCO bid, while 107 countries--including France, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, India, Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia--voted in favor. Fourteen nations--including the United Kingdom and Italy--abstained.
Washington, which called the UNESCO vote "premature" Monday, has threatened to cut off funding to UNESCO if Palestine is granted membership. The United States currently accounts for about one-fifth of the organization's budget.
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the UNESCO vote, and warned it would set back peace process.
"This is a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement," the Israeli ministry said in a statement. "This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations."
Palestine's successful UNESCO bid comes as Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair is due to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.
Blair has been trying to advance the Quartet's efforts to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, asking each side to lay out their specific terms for resolving the issues of borders and security for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have been depicting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as an unworthy peace partner.
Abbas, in turn, has recently reiterated his periodic threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority--a move that if carried out would presumably give Israel the burden of administering, funding, and coordinating security for the West Bank's Palestinian population.
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