UNESCO Vote on Palestinian Membership Another Step Away from Peace

After today’s vote [October 31st] in Paris to grant the Palestinians full admission to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Jewish Council for Public Affairs called on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to desist from diplomatic maneuvering intended to isolate Israel, and, instead, to return to direct negotiations.

“Regretfully, the Palestinians took one more step today away from peace,” said JCPA President/CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow. “First in New York last September at the UN General Assembly and now in Paris, it seems that President Abbas is more interested in engaging diplomatically with everyone but Israel. An independent and viable state of Palestine can be achieved, but, as the United States and the Quartet have stressed, it can only be done through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties themselves. We hope the real work of creating two states living side by side in peace and security can begin again soon.”

“It is most unfortunate that UNESCO, along with the millions of people around the world benefitting from its programs, now will become victims of the Palestinians’ counterproductive effort to isolate Israel internationally,” said JCPA Chair Dr. Conrad Giles. “The Palestinians knew full well that pushing the UNESCO vote would result in an automatic cutoff of significant US funding for the institution (22% of the budget) under a law passed in the 1990s. They persisted anyway, as though joining the UN’s cultural body were a landmark step towards statehood. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu consistently has expressed his readiness to enter unconditional talks leading toward two states for two peoples. President Abbas should immediately take him up on this invitation.”

Dr. Giles continued, “President Abbas has continually failed to acknowledge the Jewish people’s deep historical and religious connection to its historic homeland, Israel. This occurred again in his September 23 speech to the UN General Assembly, which only referred to Muslim and Christian attachment to the land. We are concerned that Palestinian membership in UNESCO will be used to advance this hurtful denial of reality.”

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