No veto is possible: Washington wants to block membership with financial threats

The fight for a Palestinian nation is temporarily shifting to Paris, where the U.N. Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) has its seat: A group of Arab countries has secretly introduced a flank attack. At their long held secret initiative, the 58-member UNESCO Executive Board recently approved a recommendation to grant Palestine full membership with 40 votes. Fourteen nations abstained from voting; there were opposing votes from the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania. Austria is not presently represented on this board. The final decision will be rendered at the general assembly of the organization at the annual meeting from Oct. 25 to Nov. 10.

“Confusing, Inexplicable”

For new members, a two-third majority is necessary. A right to veto, as in the U.N. Security Council, is not provided. The U.S. can therefore not prevent Palestine’s admission alone. They threaten, however, with financial consequences. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the vote as “quite confusing and inexplicable.” Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Kay Granger stated outright, she will do her utmost “for all funding to be cut off,” meaning withdrawing the U.S. contributions to the UNESCO budget.

It would not be the first time the U.S. resorted to such means: In 1984, the U.S., the United Kingdom and Singapore temporarily resigned from the organization to protest a world communications project of UNESCO during the Cold War.

The attitude of the EU is important to the decision about the full member status for Palestine: They can no longer agree to a joint course of action. While Germany, for historical, and Romania, for “Atlantic” reasons oppose Palestine's request, Spain, for example, wants to vote for it. In the executive board, Spain as well as Italy and Poland abstained from voting; France struggles likewise.

Admission of Palestine into UNESCO would not only have far-reaching diplomatic consequences. The Palestinians would like to ascribe sacred sites to World Cultural Heritage. These petitions harbor enormous religious — and political — dynamite.