Israel slams Palestinian UNESCO membership

Israel slams Palestinian UNESCO membership
# 31 October 2011 23:01 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Israeli officials on Monday sharply rejected a 107 to 14 vote at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Assembly to admit the Palestinian delegation as its 195th member on observer status, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

There were 52 abstentions to the motion, which was held at the organization’s headquarters in Paris.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry called in a statement the decision "a unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but will further remove the possibility for a peace agreement."

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, slammed the move, saying that "Israel must not keep being played, time after time, as the sucker of the Mideast."

He added that "the Palestinians must be made to pay for their deeds. Unilateral steps must receive a clear response," according to Israel Radio.

The Palestinians believe that the largely symbolic recognition will nevertheless aid them in gaining momentum for achieving full statehood at the United Nations, after Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied for membership at the world body on Sept. 23.

Citing a call on Oct. 23 by members of the International Quartet for peace in the Middle East (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia) for the two sides to return to direct negotiations, the Foreign Ministry statement said that "The Palestinian move at UNESCO, with its similar steps at other UN bodies, is tantamount to a rejection of the international community’s efforts to advance the peace process."

The United States opposes unilateral measures by either the Palestinians or Israel, and its UNESCO representative, David T. Killion, told reporters after the vote that "the action today will complicate our ability to support UNESCO," hinting at a withdrawal of U.S. funding to the body.

The Americans provide about 80 million U.S. dollars to UNESCO -- about 22 percent of its annual funding.

"The United States has been clear for the need of a two-state resolution, but the only path is through direct negotiations and there are no shortcuts, initiatives like today are counterproductive," Killion said.

The Foreign Ministry statement warned that Israel might cut cooperation with UNESCO over the vote.

"Following the decision to accept Palestine as a regular member of UNESCO, the State of Israel will consider its further steps on ongoing cooperation with the organization," the statement read.