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      PA Aims for Full Membership in UNESCO

      The Palestinian Authority plans to request full membership in the UNESCO organization as part of its statehood bid.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 10/5/2011, 5:03 PM

      The Palestinian Authority is losing no time is pushing its agenda of gaining diplomatic ground as a full member in as many United Nations committees and agencies as possible, in the context of gaining statehood via the international body, rather than negotiations with Israel.

      Three diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press Wednesday that the PA plans to request full member status on Wednesday at the executive board meeting of the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

      The PA submitted its application to the U.N. Security Council last month, demanding full membership and recognition as a sovereign nation with its boundaries along the 1949 Armistice Lines, and claiming much of Israel's capital city, Jerusalem, as its own capital.

      Currently the PA holds observer status in the U.N. and in UNESCO, but may have a good chance of winning full membership, since the process for doing so is easier than it is in the full U.N.

      However, this is not the first time the PA has attempted to gain full membership in UNESCO, and in the past, the attempt has failed. Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, told the Associated Press that he is trying to persuade other members “not to politicize” the agency and to “leave this subject to New York.”

      Barkan commented that “The tragedy is that this hampers UNESCO from doing its real job. A relatively small minority is hijacking the organization for other purposes.”

      U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called on lawmakers to cut off U.S. funds to UNESCO if the PA effort succeeds this time.

      The PA won partnership status this week in the European Union's leading human rights body, the Council of Europe, and also is seeking membership in the World Trade Organization.

      PA representatives are hoping in this way to pile up memberships in U.N. agencies as a means of forcing the membership issue in the general worldwide body.

      The United States, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has already stated bluntly that it will exercise its veto to block the PA from gaining full membership in the U.N. if necessary. But it is not at all clear whether the entity has enough votes to pass such a resolution in any case. Nine votes are needed in the Council to approve the measure.

      The Congress of the United States, which warned the PA not to go ahead with its unilateral statehood bid, meanwhile has made good on its threat to cut off funding in response, leaving a number of aid programs scrambling for support and causing concern among government officials from the White House to Ramallah. Promises of aid from Arab nations pledged at donor conferences that never materialized left the PA largely dependent on funding from Western nations -- most prominent among them the United States.