UNESCO opens its door to Palestinian membership

The international body's executive committee accepts the country's bid to join the organization · A final vote is set for the end of October, where Palestine needs the support of 2/3 of current members · US vows to cut all funds to UNESCO if Palestine becomes member

The UNESCO General Assembly is set to vote on the admission of Palestine as a new member of the international organization at the end of October. UNESCO's executive committee accepted yesterday the Palestinian bid to become a member of the body, a move that is linked to the Palestinian efforts to join United Nations.

According to Reuters, out of 58 members of the executive committee, 40 voted in favour of the Palestinian bid, while four (including the United States) voted against and 14 abstained. In fact, the US are lobbying in the UN system against Palestinian membership bids. They are going to block the Palestinian request for membership in the UN thanks to Washington's veto power in the Security Council. In the UNESCO they do not have such a power, but instead the US threaten to cut all funds to the body if Palestine is accepted. This is in no way trivial: 22 percent of UNESCO budget depends on US funds, according to The New York Times.

In the vote, the Palestinians will need the support of two-thirds of the currently 193 member states. This means that they need 129 yes votes in order to join UNESCO. Thus, the Palestinian bid needs a very strong support among their long-time African, Asian and South American allies in order to succeed.

If Palestine was accepted as member of UNESCO, this would allow the Palestinians to apply to classify their monuments as World Heritage Sites. Given that the West Bank is officially an occupied territory, Israel cannot ask UNESCO to classify monuments there. This leaves sites like Hebron, Jericho or Bethlehem outside the World Heritage list.