The Inter Press Service reports that the 193-member General Conference, UNESCO’s policy-making body, is expected to ratify Palestine’s membership during the session beginning Oct. 25. The application was approved by the agency’s 58-member executive board earlier in the week.
However the administration of President Barack Obama, under lobbying pressure from Israel and pro-Israeli members of Congress and senators, is threatening to cut off funds to the U.N. agency if it recognises the political legitimacy of Palestine.
On October 6th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States may cut off funding to UNESCO if it moves forward on its recommendation to admit the Palestinian Authority as a full member. The U.N. culture and science agency stands to lose $87 million a year, or 22 percent of the total budget, without U.S. funding.
Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court could lead to restrictions on the movements of Israeli leaders
Israel has accused the Palestinians of trying to “politicise Unesco”. It fears that recognition by affiliate UN bodies could lead to Palestinian membership of the International Criminal Court. If Palestinians were to lodge cases there against Israel, it could restrict the movements of Israeli leaders, at a time when even Washington has warned the Jewish state about its increasingly diplomatic isolation.
Israeli officials expressed concern that Palestinian membership of Unesco, which recognises historically or culturally important places as World Heritage Sites, could be used to drag disputes over the cultural ownership of disputed holy sites in the region into the international arena.
The question of historical sites is particularly sensitive in the area, since many of them are sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians and have at times served as mosques, churches or synagogues.
Yesterday, President Abbas flew to Strasbourg and asked Europe for its backing: “You supported the Arab Spring which was seeking democracy and freedom,” he said. “Now the Palestinian Spring has arrived, asking for freedom and an end to the occupation. We deserve your support.”
The Luxemburger Wort adds that vote has not been scheduled, but will take place at UNESCO’s General Conference, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 10.
The Palestinians are also seeking a foothold in the World Trade Organization and won partnership status recently in the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body.