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'Israel should've lauded Palestinian UNESCO vote first'
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND KHALED ABU TOAMEH
11/01/2011
Erekat tells Army Radio Israel, Palestinians share "land with common history and culture"; US cuts off $60 million for UN cultural agency.
 
Israel should have been the first country to congratulate the Palestinians on their acceptace to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday morning. His comments came after UNESCO accepted Palestine as the 195th member of its organization.

Erekat told Army Radio that Israel and the Palestinians "share a land with a common history and culture."

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"Yesterday's vote was a victory for humanity, peace and the two-state solution. Israelis should open up their eyes and welcome this," Erekat stated.

The top PA official added that the Palestinians would present their request for statehood recognition to the UN Security Council in 10 days.

Also responding to the UN cultural agency's decision,
the United States froze funding to UNESCO on Monday evening.

On Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas had thanked all the countries that supported its UNESCO membership bid.

“This vote is a vote for peace,” Abbas was quoted by the PA’s news agency, Wafa, as saying.

“The vote constitutes an international consensus to support the legitimate national rights of our people – first and foremost the right to establish an independent state.”

The vote is a “victory for Palestinian independence,” Abbas said. The entire world, he added, stood with the Palestinians today.

It also underscored the need to establish a Palestinian state as soon as possible, Abbas said.

“This vote is not directed against anyone,” he said. “It’s meant to support freedom and justice.”

Israel, however, warned that the UNESCO vote harmed ongoing Quartet efforts to jump-start the peace talks, which have been stalled since October 2010.

“The Palestinian move at UNESCO, as with similar such steps with other UN bodies, is tantamount to a rejection of the international community’s efforts to advance the peace process,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement it issued to the press.

It threatened to cut its ties with UNESCO.

“The State of Israel will consider its further steps and ongoing cooperation with the organization,” the Ministry said.

At the Knesset, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sternly said Israel should consider cutting all ties to the PA.

“My recommendations will be very clear,” the foreign minister explained at an Israel Beiteinu faction meeting. “We need to weigh cutting all ties with the Palestinian Authority.

We cannot continue to accept unilateral measures time after time.”

The Palestinian application for UNESCO is part of its overall strategy to unilaterally obtain statehood by seeking UN membership both by appealing to the Security Council, which approves all such bids, and by separately asking to join UN bodies such as UNESCO and other international organizations.

The Security Council is expected to vote on the issue of Palestinian UN membership later this month.

PA negotiator Nabil Sha’ath called the vote a “victory for Palestinian rights and proof of the international community’s recognition of our people’s right to an independent state.”

Sha’ath said the vote would be added to a series of “political victories achieved by the Palestinian leadership.” He said the vote highlighted the size of the crisis facing the Israeli government.

Hamas also welcomed Monday’s vote, saying it was an “important step toward serving the Palestinian cause and preserving Palestinian heritage and holy sites in the face of Israeli violations.”

Hamas said the vote also “exposed the brutality of the occupation and the bias of the US administration in favor of the occupation and its racist policies.”

Tovah Lazaroff, Rebecca Anna Stoil and Reuters contributed to this report
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