The Palestinian bid for statehood may have been postponed to November but the coming days may see progress for the PA's campaign. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will open its 26th General Conference in Paris on Tuesday.
During the conference, which will end on November 10, the UN's 193 member states will vote whether to accept the PA as a full UNESCO member state.
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Earlier this month, UNESCO's Executive Board recommended accepting the PA as a full member state. The Palestinians now need to obtain two thirds of the votes at the General Assembly to be accepted by the UN. The Security Council is slated to discuss the matter in November and the UNESCO vote is seen as a prelude to the General Assembly. The conference has already been dubbed the "mini-assembly."
Palestinian President Abbas in Ramallah (Photo: EPA)
Israel believes the process of recognition should be held in the Security Council and General Assembly and not in unauthorized institutions such as UNESCO. State officials have criticized the body for taking this unprecedented step. "This is beyond their jurisdiction," one state official told Ynet. "UNESCO wasn't created to decide about who is a country and who is not."
Israel fears that if the PA is accepted as full UNESCO member it will promote controversial activities such as recognizing Palestinian heritage sites and embroiling Israel in the political arena. Last year, the organization determined that Rachel's Tomb was in fact a Muslim mosque. "No doubt that if they are accepted their room for maneuver will grow," a state official said.
Protest in Jordan against Rachel's Tomb as Israeli heritage site (Photo: AP)
Israel also fears the UNESCO vote will set a precedence which will induce other UN bodies to recognize Palestine. The Foreign Ministry has instructed Israeli missions around the world to spread messages against the move.
Education Gideon Sa'ar is set to speak before the UNESCO conference and meet with foreign officials in a bid to influence their vote. The UNESCO vote does not allow member states to abstain, but only to vote against or in favor which renders chances to block recognition unlikely. Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry is not losing hope. Israel has received promises from several European states who said they will oppose the move in addition to the US, which is pressuring the PA to withdraw the bid.
Earlier this week the New York Times reported that US legislation dating back more than 15 years mandates a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. "UNESCO depends on the United States for 22 percent of its budget, about $70 million a year," the paper noted.
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