With a bid for full recognition of statehood still sitting in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the UN's Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) gave its initial approval to recognize Palestine as a member state. The move is an attempt to bypass a UNSC veto of Palestinian statehood by the United States, but will also result in an end in American aid to UNESCO.
Against the will of the United States and several European countries, UNESCO's 58-nation executive board approved recognition of Palestine as a full-fledged member of the group. The recognition also automatically grants acknowledgment of a Palestinian state, as a necessary criterion for membership in UNESCO. In effect, Wednesday's move would mean that Palestine would be deemed a state in some of the UN's affiliate organizations, without any formal recognition by the UN's governing body.
If UNESCO's full membership approves the Palestinian bid, the body's stance will be in direct contravention of American law. Existing legislation mandates a cutoff of money to any UN agency that grants "full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood."
Currently, the United States provides 22% of UNESCO's funding.
"Membership would allow Palestinian officials to seek the protection of Palestinian historical sites by the cultural organization," which "would create further conflict with Israel," The New York Times reports. "For instance, some of those sites are in east Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed."
"We hope and pray that the Unesco authorities will realize — and the Palestinians will realize — that there is a very high price to be paid, in American participation in Unesco," said Nimrod Barkan, the Israeli ambassador.