RAMALLAH, October 30 (JMCC) - Western diplomats are working against the clock to achieve a compromise proposal postponing or mitigating a vote admitting Palestinians to the United Nations' cultural organization, UNESCO, reports Haaretz
The vote is expected to take place on Monday or Tuesday. If UNESCO members vote to admit Palestine, the agency is expected to lose nearly one-quarter of its funding from the United States through decades-old US legislation.
Palestinian officials have said that they cannot back down from the request for membership, which would allow destinations in the occupied Palestinian territories to be considered international heritage sites, among other benefits.
The petition is part of the Palestinians' September request for membership in the United Nations, now under consideration by the Security Council.
Senior Israeli and European diplomats have said that the United States and the EU have presented Abbas with two compromise proposals. The first would provide for a resolution making the Palestinians a party to several of UNESCO's international treaties. It would also defer a vote on full membership of the agency for several months, until the Palestinian application for full UN membership runs its course. The Europeans have also promised that a special Palestinian session of UNESCO would be convened in the future if the PA agreed to defer the current vote in Paris.
A second proposal offers adoption by the UNESCO General Conference of a proposal admitting Palestine as a full agency member, but with a provision that implementation of the resolution would be deferred by several months. "The aim of both compromise proposals is to head off the American budget cut to UNESCO," a senior Israeli diplomat said.
Abbas has not given a final response to either compromise offer. A senior European diplomat has noted, however, that the Palestinian president has said a retreat from the UNESCO bid would cause him serious harm. The European official said Abbas was concerned about a replay of the Goldstone Commission findings on Israel's Cast Lead operation in Gaza. In that instance Abbas was criticized for agreeing to a deferral of action on the report.
Over the weekend, Abbas' foreign minister, Riad Malki, said the Palestinians will accept nothing less than full UNESCO membership. Nonetheless, at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, there is a sense that the Palestinians would be ready to accept compromise formulas, particularly out of concern that they would be blamed for a cut in UNESCO funding. "Abu Mazen [Abbas] doesn't want to be accused of [causing] such serious harm to a UN organization," a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said.