Members of UNESCO granted full membership Monday to the Palestinian territories. Though largely symbolic, Palestinian leaders said full membership at U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was a small victory following a unilateral statehood initiative launched during the U.N. General Assembly in September.
The vote, however, triggered U.S. legislation enacted in the 1990s that withholds funding for any U.N. body admitting the Palestinian territories as a full member. Israel responded to the UNESCO bid by announcing plans to hasten settlement activity inside Palestinian territory.
UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova called on U.S. lawmakers and the American public to find a way to keep funding her agency.
In a statement, she referred to U.S. State Department comments that "engagement with UNESCO serves a wide range of our national interests on education, science, culture and communications issues."
She added that UNESCO was the only agency with a mandate to promote Holocaust education, which relied on funding from the U.S. and Israeli governments.