Israel and America have cut funding to the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO after other UN members voted to grant Palestine full membership last week. The move is the latest in a series of Israeli and American reprisals following the UNESCO vote. America’s $60 million funding accounts for 20%of the agency’s budget, while Israel contributes $2 million dollars. The cuts come on the back of an announcement that Israel will speed up the construction of 2,000 homes in occupied territory and freeze the transfer of key tax revenues to Palestine in retaliation.
Israel’s announcement will anger the international community which widely sees the Israeli construction on occupied land as illegal. The land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is marked by Palestine for a future state. Palestinian official, Nabi Abu Rudeina, slammed the decision, saying it would “accelerate the destruction of the peace process”.
America has already pledged to use its veto if the question is brought to the council.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “We won’t sit around idly in the wake of these moves that harm Israel and are a crude violation of the most elementary commitment the sides took upon themselves in the peace process – to solve the conflict between us through negotiations only.”
UNESCO membership is considered a crucial step in Palestine’s bid for full statehood. Over the weekend, Britain, France and Columbia suggested they would abstain from a UN Security Council vote on the issue. America has already pledged to use its veto if the question is brought to the council. However, if the Palestinians could secure a nine-vote majority at the 15 member council this would force America to use its veto in order to win: a moral victory for the would-be state.
…quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as being “deeply concerned” by Israel’s announcement…
Israel’s retaliation to Palestine’s UNESCO bid has drawn international criticism. When Israel delayed the transfer of funds to Palestine in a similar move in May, the Palestinian authority was forced to suspend the salaries of civil servants. It will put intense pressure on the Palestinian authority as it struggles with the worsening economic crises in the West Bank. Reuters reported the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ,Catherine Ashton, as saying she was “deeply concerned by the latest Israeli decisions” and urged Israel to reverse them.
The news agency also quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as being “deeply concerned” by Israel’s announcement and that the funds transfer to the Palestinians must continue “in line with Israel’s obligations”.
“UNESCO effectively endorsed the warped, hate-mongering Palestinian national narrative…
An editorial in Palestine’s Al-Quds newspaper last week said: “Israel’s announcement that it will build 2,000 homes for settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank was justified as retaliation for the Palestinian statehood bid…This is undoubtedly a clue that Israel is evading the peace process because settlement expansion was why the peace talks were suspended.”
Israel’s English language Morning Post editorial said: “UNESCO effectively endorsed the warped, hate-mongering Palestinian national narrative as reflected in the PA’s official school textbooks, cultural policies and popular media.
…the UNESCO decision ‘is a vote for peace’ is utterly incomprehensible.
“Consequently, the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians will get even slimmer. Seen in this light, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s statement that the UNESCO decision ‘is a vote for peace’ is utterly incomprehensible. Rather, it is a vote for bigotry, hatred and conflict.”
In this light, it remains to be seen how UNESCO will respond to these developments in this saga.
Inages courtesy of UNESCO, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas