While Palestinian attempts to secure full membership of the United Nations are still pending, signs have abounded that they will ultimately prove futile. Representatives of the Palestinian Territories are currently in confidential talks with the 16-member United Nations Security Council. The Palestinians needs to obtain a Security Council recommendation before the 193-member United Nations General Assembly can vote on granting them full membership. This means that not only do they require the votes of nine of the 16 Security Council members, they also require the votes of all five of the permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - any one of which can veto the proposal. The United States has already indicated it will exercise its veto on the grounds that Palestinian statehood can’t be unilaterally declared without Israeli support. This probably won’t be necessary: Bosnia, which hold a temporary seat on the Security Council, has indicated it will abstain from the vote, making a majority of nine unachievable.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) voted to admit Palestine as its 195th full member on Monday. Only fourteen member states voted against the move (including Australia and the US), while 52 abstained. The move comes at considerable cost to the organisation - some $70 million, or a quarter of the budget - as both US and Israeli will withhold their funding allocations to UNESCO as a result of the vote. By law, the US government cannot fund a UN agency that accepts Palestine as a member. Indeed, the US boycotted UNESCO from 1984 to 2003, alleging the organisation was corrupt, censorious and anti-Israel.
Palestine’s curious UN double status is the result of differing admission procedures between the two organisations. No UNESCO member nation holds veto power. The Palestinian foreign minister insisted this week the two admission applications were not linked. UNESCO is a global development agency which hosts the City of Literature program, of which Melbourne is a member city.
The video/podcast of the recent Wheeler Centre event, ‘The Arab Spring’, is now available. Click on the image below to watch, listen and download.