Don’t stop me now: Palestine encouraged by UNESCO success

The Autonomy’s top envoy in Geneva believes this accession will open doors to 16 more international organizations. Palestinian diplomats, encouraged by the landslide vote, are gathering the paperwork for future applications.

Among the first organizations on the agenda is the World Health Organization, and according to the Palestinian health minister, discussions concerning potential membership have already been held. But after the United States responded to Monday’s vote in favor of Palestine joining UNESCO by cutting funds to the organization, some might think twice.

“The US funding is quite important, I guess, for all the UN organizations,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters. “It’s a vital funding need for the WHO.”

If the United States does threaten to withdraw funding for any international agency that admits Palestine, it could seriously hamper the latter’s chances. Pressure from Israel is certainly not helping either. Officials in Tel Aviv have already said they might consider withdrawing from UNESCO and that granting the Palestinians membership seriously hampers the peace process in the Middle East.

Palestinian officials have stated time and again that these membership ambitions are not in any way a substitute for the ongoing peace talks. But Israel does not put much faith in these claims. Alex Selsky, spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu, told Interfax news agency that “de-facto, the peace talks are not continuing. They [Palestinian officials] say one thing and do something completely different.”

Washington-watcher Carmen Russell-Sluchansky says the nation's chances for statehood are bleak, but it may have success in other UN bodies. “This is a first step, I think, in a series of steps towards UN membership,” Russell-Sluchansky told RT. “The next is going to be more education and cultural organizations and pretty soon we could see membership in the WHO. They can decide to accept Palestine as a member by a majority vote just as UNESCO did, but as far as getting statehood, the US has a veto and there is no way they’re not going to be using that.”