Palestinians Ditch Bid For Membership In UN Tourism Body

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
AP/Virginia Mayo

TEL AVIV – The Palestinian leadership on Wednesday ditched a bid for full state membership in the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) following pressure from Israel and the U.S.

The vote, which was set to take place this week at the body’s General Assembly in Chengdu, China, was postponed until its next plenary session in two years.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry praised the move, attributing it to “great Israeli efforts spearheaded by [Tourism] Minister Yariv Levin, who led the Israeli delegation.”

The PA submitted its request for membership last year. Two-thirds of the UNWTO’s member states would have had to have voted in favor in order to secure membership. Since countries which usually abstain or vote against Palestinian bids for membership – including the U.S., Canada, Australia and UK – are not members of the UNWTO, the vote was expected to pass and would have marked the second UN organization in which “Palestine” is recognized as a full member state, with the first being the global body’s heritage agency, UNESCO.

The Trump administration requested that the PA refrain from any unilateral actions at the UN for the next four months while the U.S. formulates a diplomatic process.

Ahead of the announcement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry released a statement maintaining that “Palestine is not a state and cannot be accepted as such in the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations.”

“Israel has taken all diplomatic measures to block the request,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “We are not expecting any negative impact on Israel or its continued activity in the organization – the expected damage will be to the organization itself.”

Hassan Ka’bia, a deputy spokesman at the Ministry told The Media Line “that all attempts by the PA to gain memberships at the UN will ruin the serious Israeli efforts to renew peace talks and will have no effect on the ground.

“At the end of the day,” he added, “our allies at the UN, including the U.S., are very strong and supportive of Israel so the Palestinians will not get anything there.”

Jewish group B’nai B’rith slammed UNTWO for allowing the Palestinians’ request to go to a vote in the first place.

“The Palestinians must not be allowed to upend the international order, and enjoy treatment not afforded any other group, by being admitted to international organizations as a ‘state’ before they have actually earned that status,” B’nai B’rith said in a statement.

“Such admittance only encourages the Palestinians to continue rejecting the direct negotiations and meaningful compromise with Israel that would provide for the fundamental needs of both sides,” it concluded.