UNESCO approves Palestinian membership

Member of the delegation of Palestinian observers, Yahya Yakhlef, center, smiles during the opening session of UNESCO's 36th General Conference, in Paris. AP

Last Updated 8:49 a.m. ET

PARIS — UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency, has admitted Palestine as a full member in a highly divisive bid that opponents say could harm renewed peace efforts.

U.S. lawmakers had threatened to withhold some $80 million in funding to UNESCO if it approved Palestinian membership.

Huge cheers went up in UNESCO after delegates voted to approve the membership Monday. One shouted "Long Live Palestine!" in French.

Palestinian officials are seeking full membership in the United Nations, but because that effort is expected to take some time, they separately sought membership at Paris-based UNESCO.

CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' statehood bid comes in three parts: the application to the Security Council (where a decision will be made on November 11); the UNESCO membership bid; and the vote for observer state status at the U.N. General Assembly, "and rising expectations in Palestine are putting pressure on Abbas to act."

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Paris-based UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is seen as a test case for that strategy.

The Palestinians needed to win over two-thirds of UNESCO's 193 members on Monday to get full membership.

Falk notes that the Palestinians' application for full membership in UNESCO comes as Abbas threatens to resign and dismantle the Palestinian Authority. A tentative truce has quieted five days of violence between Israel and Gaza.

The United States, which has said it will use its Security Council veto to derail the Palestinians bid at the U.N. in New York, has warned that its funding to UNESCO could be cut if the bid passes there.

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