Palestine Named Member of UN Cultural Body
Controversial move prompts cheers at UNESCO
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 31, 2011 8:45 AM CDT
Palestine's foreign minister talks with the Organization of Islamic Conference's Secretary General left, and Ambassador for Palestine at UNESCO Elias Sanbar, right, during a UNESCO session today.   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

(Newser) – Palestine became a full member of UNESCO today, in a highly divisive move that the United States and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts. US lawmakers had threatened to withhold roughly $80 million in annual funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization if it approved Palestinian membership. Huge cheers went up after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. "Long Live Palestine!" shouted one delegate.

Palestinian officials are seeking full membership in the United Nations, but that effort is still under examination and the US has said it will veto it unless there is a peace deal with Israel. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based UNESCO and other UN bodies. Today's vote is definitive. The membership formally takes effect when Palestine signs UNESCO's founding charter.