Palestinians Face Setback in U.N. Membership Bid

Posted November 4th, 2011 at 1:45 am (UTC-5)
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France is expected to explain its decision on Friday to abstain from any vote on Palestinian membership in the United Nations.

The move comes a day after U.N. envoys announced the planned abstentions of France, Britain and Colombia.

Palestinians need at least nine votes in the 15-member U.N. Security Council for their membership resolution to succeed. The United States has pledged to veto the measure if it is brought to a vote.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted the application for U.N. membership in September in a bid to gain Palestinian statehood recognition. The U.S. has been urging Palestinians to return to direct peace talks with Israel.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians heightened on Monday after the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, approved a Palestinian request for full membership.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his government to freeze the country's $2 million annual funding of UNESCO. The U.S. said on Monday that it would stop funding UNESCO.

Also this week, the Israeli Cabinet announced it would expedite construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and suspend the transfer of tax revenue it collects for the Palestinian Authority.

A senior Israeli official said the moves were a punitive response to what he called recent unilateral actions by the Palestinians.

The Palestinians' U.N. observer urged the Security Council to take action against Israel for accelerating settlement building and what he said was “illegally hijacking” Palestinian tax revenue.

Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down more than one year ago after an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction expired. Palestinians oppose building on land they want as part of a future state.