Israel is attempting to thwart a Palestinian bid to join the United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), arguing that the “State of Palestine” does not exist, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Tourism applied for membership into the organisation last year, and the issue is on the meeting agenda of the UNWTO General Assembly in China, which begins on Monday and runs through Saturday.
The UNWTO is based in Madrid, and describes itself as “responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism”.
Israel has endeavoured to block the move by appealing to the outgoing WTO Secretary-General, Jordanian diplomat Taleb Rifai, and China where the conference is being held.
Tel Aviv has also involved the US, which has reportedly asked PA President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from engaging in international organisations until the US releases its updated peace plan, warning that to act otherwise could damage their bilateral relations.
“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 organisation – the expected damage will be to the organisation itself.”
If the bid is successful, it would be the second UN organisation, after UNESCO, to which the Palestinians have full membership. Human rights groups and Palestinian officials have regularly called on the UN to condemn the crimes of the Israeli occupation. Israel has ignored all resolutions contrary to their favour, and denounces the UN’s limited recognition of Palestine.
Israel was also angered in July following UNESCO rulings that condemned the continued occupation of Jerusalem and recognised Hebron as a Palestinian Heritage Site under threat from Israel. In response, Israel cut its funding to the international organisation by $1 million, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lierberman labelling the UN branch “anti-Semitic”.