It was on October 31 that the UNESCO General Assembly admitted Palestine as a full member. Of the 194 members of the UN organisation, 107 had voted for, 14 against and 52 abstained.
In the ‘No’ camp, there was stern opposition from the United States and Israel.
The Palestinians only had observer status at UNESCO, but had been asking for full membership for 22 years.
Israeli reprisals were immediate, with a new push to build Jewish settlements and a freeze on the transfer of money to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – funds that accounted for 30 percent of its budget. International pressure got the cash flowing again, but 2,000 new settlers’ homes would be built in retaliation.
The United States turned its anger on UNESCO itself. Two laws made it illegal for Washington to finance any organisation that recognised Palestine as a state.
UNESCO’s Director General, Irina Bokova, told euronews: “The United States contribute 22 percent to the regular budget and then we have also the withholding of funds for 2012 for (sic) Israel, so it’s quite substantial. We have to know that budgetary contribution of each member states is an obligation in respect for the organisation and I believe that, still, the US will change the law”
The Palestinians are also pursuing full membership of the United Nations itself. Their application, made in September by the leader of the Palestinian Authority, is still being looked at.
At the UN, Mahmoud Abbas said: “The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other people of the earth, free in a sovereign independent homeland.”
There is no guarantee that the Palestinians will win the nine votes they need from the 15 security council members, and if they do not the US would not have to use its veto.