Palestinian UNESCO membership: What it means for 4 key players

UNESCO members (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) overwhelmingly approved Palestinian membership in a 107-14 vote on Monday, although there were 52 abstentions.

UNESCO, which is responsible for protecting historic heritage sites and promoting cultural understanding, holds little power on the international stage. But its decision to grant Palestinians membership in the organization is a symbolic victory for the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who is campaigning for international support for statehood after years of stalled negotiations with Israel.

What are the ramifications for the parties involved?

For the Palestinian Authority

Thibault Camus/AP
Delegates cheer after they approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions, during the session of UNESCO's 36th General Conference, in Paris, on Monday.

Practically speaking, UNESCO membership for Palestine doesn’t bring it any closer to actual statehood. But with the Palestinians’ bid for full UN membership stalled because of an almost-certain US veto on the United Nations Security Council, the Palestinian Authority has opted to move forward by pushing for membership at individual UN agencies, such as UNESCO, the Associated Press reports.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib called the vote “a vote of confidence from the international community,” implying it was a victory in the battle of perception. "We look at this vote as especially important because part of our battle with the Israeli occupation is about the occupation[’s] attempts to erase the Palestinian history or Judaizing it. The UNESCO vote will help us to maintain the Palestinian traditional heritage, " he said, according to AP.

With UNESCO membership, it will likely be easier to gain heritage status for historical sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The UNESCO membership could further complicate Quartet efforts to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

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