After UN status upgrade, Palestinians seek to join other international organizations

Israel attempting to block move by pressuring Washington, host countries; Foreign Ministry memo reportedly warns EU will seek to impose Palestinian statehood, bypassing negotiations

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

In the wake of its successful November UN status upgrade bid, the Palestinian Authority is now seeking to join other international organizations, Maariv reported on Wednesday. The list of organizations the Palestinians have applied to join include: the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Israel’s Foreign Ministry was reportedly attempting to block the Palestinians’ efforts via its ambassadors in countries where the organizations’ headquarters are located. Israeli diplomats have already sent requests to the organizations not to accept the Palestinians into their ranks, explaining that such a move would have a negative effect on relations with Israel and would greatly harm the peace process.

The main challenge facing the Palestinians is overcoming the US’s influence on the organizations. Current US law prohibits contributions to any UN body granting membership to the PLO or any other “organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” About 22% of the four organizations’ annual budges are paid for by the US.

Israeli officials reportedly expressed concern that pro-Palestinian groups will pressure Congress into changing the law and Israel was said to be working tirelessly to make sure it won’t happen. Government officials in Jerusalem are reportedly contemplating sending a special diplomatic envoy to Washington in order to coordinate Israeli and American positions regarding the Palestinians’ efforts.

So far, the Palestinians have succeeded in joining only one major international group, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO lost an estimated $80 million per year in donations after the US withdrew funding last year following its acceptance of Palestine as a member in October 2011.

Haaretz reported on Wednesday that an internal memo circulated Tuesday by the Foreign Ministry suggests that the European Union is skeptical that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will lead to a viable peace agreement. According to a source who saw the document, the European Union is expected to increase its efforts to impose an agreement on the sides in the coming year, even if it means bypassing negotiations.

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