- ‘Tis the Season: London florist creates $4.6 million Christmas wreath
- No tailgating allowed at Super Bowl XLVIII
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend’s shopping jumps to his death
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
- Pope Francis: A nun saved my life
- Israeli P.M. Netanyahu backs out of Mandela funeral
- Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since custody battle
- U.S., British intelligence agents enter online sci-fi world to spy on gamers
- Sarah Palin to host the outdoors show ‘Amazing America’
Palestine becomes member of UNESCO
PARIS — Palestine became a full member of UNESCO on Monday in a highly divisive breakthrough that will cost the agency a fifth of its budget and that the U.S. and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.
Soon after the vote, the United States cut funding to the organization because of a U.S. law that bars funding an organization that has Palestine as a member before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.
UNESCO depends heavily on U.S. funding — Washington provides 22 percent of the organization’s budget, or about $80 million a year — but has survived without it in the past: The United States pulled out of UNESCO under President Ronald Reagan, rejoining two decades later under President George W. Bush.
Monday’s vote is a grand symbolic victory for the Palestinians, but it alone won’t make Palestine into a state. The issues of borders for an eventual Palestinian state, security troubles and other disputes that have thwarted Middle East peace for decades remain unresolved.
Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval with 173 UNESCO member delegations present. In a surprise, France voted “yes” — and the room erupted in cheers and applause — while the “no” votes included the United States, Israel, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany.
Even if the vote’s impact isn’t felt right away in the Mideast, it will be quickly felt at UNESCO, which protects historic heritage sites and works to improve world literacy, access to schooling for girls, and cultural understanding, but it also has in the past been a forum for anti-Israel sentiment.
“It is my responsibility to say that I am concerned by the potential challenges that may arise to the universality and financial stability of the organization,” said Ms. Bokova, who has led a drive to reform the institution. “I am worried we may confront a situation that could erode UNESCO as a universal platform for dialogue. I am worried for the stability of its budget.”
Before the State Department announcement, White House spokesman Jay Carney called UNESCO’s decision “premature” and said it undermines the international community’s goal of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan. He called it a distraction from the goal of restarting direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Democrats and Republicans in Washington also criticized the vote. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, “Today’s reckless action by UNESCO is anti-Israel and anti-peace.”
Palestinian officials are seeking full membership in the United Nations, but that effort is still under examination, and the U.S. has pledged a veto unless there is a peace deal with Israel. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based UNESCO. All the efforts are part of a broader push by the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas for greater international recognition in recent years.
“Joy fills my heart. This is really an historic moment,” said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki. “We hope that today’s victory at UNESCO marks but a beginning. Our admission to UNESCO is not an alternative, is no substitute for something else.”
“It also indicates that the Palestinian cause is getting more support while American policy is regressing,” Hamas official Salah Bardawil said.
UNESCO, like other U.N. agencies, is a part of the world body but has separate membership procedures and can make its own decisions about which countries belong. Full U.N. membership is not required for membership in many of the U.N. agencies.
Israel’s outspoken foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said before the vote that if it passed, Israel should cut off ties with the Palestinian Authority. It was not clear whether he was voicing an individual opinion or government policy. He has a history of making comments embarrassing to the prime minister.
In an address to parliament, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized the Palestinians move.
“Unfortunately, the Palestinians continue to refuse to negotiate with us. Instead of sitting around the negotiating table, they have decided to form an alliance with Hamas and take unilateral steps at the U.N., including today,” Mr. Netanyahu said. He warned his government would “not sit quietly.”
“As such, we will need to work on tactical solutions to preserve UNESCO’s financial resources,” he said. He urged a negotiated solution to Mideast peace.
Ghasan Khatib, spokesman for the Palestinian government in the West Bank, urged the United States to keep UNESCO funding.
“We look at this vote as especially important because part of our battle with the Israeli occupation is about the occupation attempts to erase the Palestinian history or Judaizing it. The UNESCO vote will help us to maintain the Palestinian traditional heritage,” he said.
• Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris; Dalia Nammari in Ramallah, West Bank; Edith Lederer at the United Nations; and Joe Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this article.
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- Ted Cruz sees legal landmines ahead for Obamacare
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- MILLER: Brady Campaign says Colorado recalls due to NRA, not grassroots opposition to gun control
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- Tech companies call for an end to NSA online snooping
- MSNBC host: Obamacare a 'wealthy white men' racist word
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Richard Ivory, editor-in-chief of Hip Hop Republicans and HHR at Communities Digital News, turns his interests, and pen, to the people making news today.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
The world impacts us. What happens in our towns, cities, states, country and on this planet makes a difference to us.
Happiness is attainable. Morning to night. I love to teach, deal with folks that have an issue and really wish to tackle it and write.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow