Update (2:52 p.m. EDT): Say goodbye to $60 million, UNESCO. The United States has stopped funding UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency that voted 107-14 to give Palestine membership (video below of voting, applause and hearty chuckle around 1:45, when Israel cast its vote), according to Reuters. "U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the United States had no choice but to halt funding because of longstanding U.S. law," reports Reuters who confirmed that the U.S. wouldn't make good on the $60 million transfer that was scheduled for November. Nuland added that the vote was "regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace," according to the AP. Earlier today we had reported the United States's threats of de-funding the U.N. agency due to the vote's conflict with U.S. foreign policy -- that Palestine could possibly seek protection of its historical sites and wants full membership in the U.N. despite Israel's wishes. The U.S. maintains it would veto a vote for Palestinian membership in the UN Security Council and will remain a member of UNESCO reports the AP.
Palestine won a victory in its climb to full UN membership today when it was admitted as a full member to UNESCO, the organization's cultural body, in "a highly divisive move" opposed by the United States, Germany, and other nations, the AP is reporting. "Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions," according to the AP. But the United States is threatening to withhold the $80 million it contributes to the agency's budget over the vote. "Existing United States legislation appears to mandate the cutoff of money to the United Nations or any of its agencies if they grant 'full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood,' and more legislation along the same lines has been introduced. The United States contributes 22 percent of Unesco’s budget," The New York Times reports, adding that U.S. and Israeli officials are speaking out today against the move. Though the AP characterizes the vote as having largely "symbolic meaning," with Reuters calling it a "a moral victory in their bid for full U.N. membership," Palestine's membership in UNESCO could have some actual on-the-ground consequences. "Membership would allow Palestinian officials to seek the protection of Palestinian historical sites by the cultural organization, other officials noted. That would create further conflict with Israel," write The Times.
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