In past decades, Palestinian nationalists did many moves to attract international attention. Some still do, but moderate leaders are lately discovering that the path to recognition might lie instead through the United Nations. On Monday, they won a key victory when Palestine a state that doesnt technically exist was granted membership in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Thats giving the Obama administration fits and angering pro-Israel members of Congress from both US political parties, but regardless of how one feels about the proper borders of Israel, the Palestinian switch to a diplomatic strategy represents progress. It is also working brilliantly, if the Palestinians goal is to bring attention to their cause. The Unesco vote showed that it is the United States and Israel, not the Palestinians, that are internationally isolated. The US was on the losing side of a 107-14 vote in favour of membership, with 52 countries abstaining, including staunch US ally Britain; another close European ally, France, voted in favour of the Palestinians. That result came in spite of a fevered campaign by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to shore up support in foreign capitals for the US position. Because of laws passed in the early 1990s that bar American funding for any UN agency that grants membership to Palestinians, Washington must now withhold $80 million from Unesco, about 22% of its budget. Thats of little immediate consequence. Unesco, which runs anti-poverty, educational and cultural programs around the world, is a low priority for Washington, which pulled out completely from 1984 to 2003, and other countries will probably step up to fill the agencys budget hole. But the success is likely to embolden Palestinian leaders to seek membership in agencies with much bigger impacts on US interests, such as the World Intellectual Property Organisation (which helps protect patents and copyrights and is of great importance to Hollywood and Silicon Valley), the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation. That would force the US to pull its funding from, and eventually lose its membership in and influence over, these bodies. The anti-Palestine laws should be repealed. Whats needed are policies that would encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to settle their differences at the bargaining table, but these laws exert no such pressure, have little impact on UN votes (possibly because the loss of US funding doesnt pose as big a threat as it once did) and could greatly reduce American influence around the world. Political reality being what it is, we have no expectation that Congress will do the right thing. The likely result will not be a more peaceful Middle East, but a more isolated United States. Los Angeles Times editorial