by Arieh O'Sullivan

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to admit Palestine to full membership, adding heft to the Palestinian Authority's bid for membership to the United Nations and triggering a possible substantial loss of funds for the UN agency.

Some 107 members, more than the two-thirds need for approval, voted to bring Palestine into the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Fourteen countries voted no, while 52 abstained. The abstentions were not counted as votes.

The United States, Israel, Germany and several other European countries voted against admission. The United Kingdom was among those who withheld a vote.

The grant of full membership is seen as adding gravitas to September's application for the Palestinian Authority to be recognized as a state by the United Nations. That move has been opposed by the United States and Israel, among other nation-members.

The UNESCO vote could cause the agency to lose more than a fifth of its annual revenue. The United provided 22 percent of UNESCO's budget, about $80 million. A law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990 prohibits any federal funds "for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states."

David T. Killion, U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO, declared the action to be "premature" and that it "will complicate our ability to support UNESCO's programs."

"The United States has been very clear about the need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said. "But the only path to the Palestinian state that we all seek is through direct negotiations. There are no shortcuts, and we believe efforts such as the one we have witnessed today are counterproductive."

The Palestinian Authority becomes the 195th member of UNESCO.



"UNESCO Vote to Admit Palestinian Authority Stirs Tempest"