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B’nai B’rith International condemns UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, for granting the Palestinians full membership. This move will be harmful to advancing the peace process and will have a severe financial impact on the cultural agency.

Until now, the Palestine Liberation Organization held observer status at the cultural agency. Now that it is a full member, the cultural organization is due to lose $70 million, or 22 percent of its annual budget based on two U.S. laws passed in the 1990s. These laws ban U.S. financing of any United Nations entity that grants the Palestinians full membership.

“The United States should be praised for its very active role in attempting to ward off this debacle, particularly through the diplomatic efforts of the U.S. delegation,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “Unfortunately, this has become yet another Palestinian attempt to side step peace negotiations with the Israelis.”

On Oct. 5, the Palestinians submitted an initial request to UNESCO’s executive board for full membership in the cultural agency. Of the board’s 58 members, 40 approved the Palestinian request; 14 abstained. Only the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania voted against the proposal. Today at the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris, 107—of the 173 voting members present—voted to admit the Palestinians as a full member. Only 14 voted “no,” including the United States, Canada, Germany and Holland, according to the Jerusalem Post; 52 abstained.

“This move demonstrates mounting Palestinian resolve to disregard the necessity of direct talks,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Seeking recognition at this international entity bypasses important decisions that can only be made directly between the Israelis and the Palestinians—including the very important issues of borders and security.”

Since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas applied for full membership to the U.N. Security Council on Sept. 23, the Palestinians have also sought influence in the World Trade Organization, and they recently obtained partnership status in Europe’s human rights body, the Council of Europe.

B’nai B’rith has been active in the United Nations since the world body’s inception, and is represented as a non-governmental organization at UNESCO in Paris.