In a significant move by the United Nation’s cultural agency, UNESCO has determined to allow Palestine admission as a full member into its agency.
The monumental vote by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took place in Paris Monday and passed with 107 votes in approval of the bid. Only 14 votes went against allowing Palestinian membership into the agency, while 52 members abstained from the vote.
The vote was the first vote on the matter of Palestinian U.N. membership and applause broke out frequently as members voted “yes” to including Palestine as a member of the agency.
The Israeli representative of UNESCO was clearly disgruntled with the decision and said that the outcome of the vote was “a tragedy for UNESCO” and also called it a “great disservice to international law.”
The Palestinian representative was pleased with the outcome saying, “For over six decades, Palestinians have proven to be superb human beings but have regrettably remained without their rights.”
She added, “Today this wrong has been righted.”
Many are concerned that the vote will be quite costly as fears have arisen that the U.S. will cut its funding to the organization, which comprises of more than a fifth of the UNESCO budget.
In a letter signed earlier in the month by members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations it was stated, "Any recognition of Palestine as a Member State would not only jeopardize the hope for a resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, but (it) would endanger the United States' contribution to UNESCO."
However, UNESCO Director, Irina Bokova has argued that cutting U.S. funding to the organization could be problematic in terms of vital U.S. interests in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
The bid for membership into the U.N. began in September when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made his case for Palestinian statehood and U.N. membership before the United Nations General Assembly.
The U.S. has been staunchly opposed the efforts on behalf of the Palestinian leadership.
President Obama has urged for a diplomatically negotiated two-state solution where Israel and Palestine can live "side by side in peace” prior to U.N. membership.
Today’s decision will serve as a significant boost to Palestine’s bid for international recognition as a state. However, opponents of Palestinian membership have also suggested that today's decision could be dangerous. They argue that prematurely allowing Palestine U.N. membership could add an extra barrier to hampered peace efforts between Israel and Palestine.