Lifestyle & Belief

Palestinians seek UNESCO membership


A Palestinian worker cleans the Tree of Life mosaic inside one of the rooms at the ancient Hisham Palace in the West Bank city of Jericho on December 2, 2010.


Marco Longari

The UNESCO executive committee backed the Palestinian Authority's bid to become a member of its body Wednesday, giving a diplomatic boost to the Palestinian effort to achieve statehood recognition.

AFP reports that the bid passed with 40 votes in favor of it and four against. There were 14 abstentions.

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The general assembly of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, will now consider the bid for final approval.

The move comes as the Palestinians are seeking statehood recognition by the United Nations Security Council. Members of the council are expected to vote on that bid in the coming weeks.

The cultural body membership bid represents an effort by the Palestinians to pursue various avenues toward being recognized as a nation, ABC News reports.

"The United States wields a veto on the Security Council, and has said it will veto any statehood bid before Palestine comes to an agreement with U.S. ally Israel over their longstanding territorial standoff," AFP states. "But no power has a veto on the UNESCO committee, and Washington's 'no' vote in Paris was not enough to halt the motion. Palestinian leaders have said they are under enormous diplomatic pressure to abandon their candidacy."

Haaretz reports that Israel's Foreign Ministry called the UNESCO membership request a “rejection of the path of negotiations, as well as of the Quartet plan to continue with the political process.”

“This move negates the efforts of the international community to advance the political process. A decision like this will not advance the Palestinians in their aspirations to statehood,” the ministry continued.

UNESCO membership would enable the Palestinians to apply to classify its monuments as World Heritage Sites. This could cause further clashes with Israel over sites considered holy by both Palestinian Muslims and Israeli Jews.