Photo: Gil Yohanan
Ban Ki-Moon
Photo: AFP
Palestinian delegation after UNESCO vote
Photo: EPA

Israel suspends PA funds, UNESCO fees

PM Netanyahu halts annual fees to UN's cultural body following PA vote, as UN chief warns PA's efforts to join United Nations' bodies jeopardizes organization's funding. PA claims Jerusalem withholding transfer of tax revenue

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered to suspend Israel's annual $2 million membership fees to UNESCO, Ynet learned on Thursday.


The decree followed the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization's decision to grant the PA full-member status, despite the objections of both Israel and the United States.


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Netanyahu ordered that the now-free funds be allocated to similar regional projects.


Earlier Thursday, the Palestinians said Israel has carried out its threat to suspend transfer the transfer of taxes it collects on behalf of the PA. The Palestinians linked the decision to the UNESCO vote.


Israel collects about $100 million in customs, border and some income taxes each month on behalf of the PA, then relays the funds to Ramallah.


Palestinian officials said Jerusalem did not transfer the funds in the first three days of November as it does every month.


Jerusalem threatened to suspend the transfer of tax money following the admittance of Palestine into UNESCO, but had not confirmed the move.


הנציגים באונסק"ו מריעים למשלחת הפלסטינית לאחר ההצבעה            (צילום: EPA)

UNESCO members celebrate PA's accession (Photo: EPA)


The decision to freeze Israel's membership in UNESCO was slammed by the Opposition: "The Israeli government has lost the diplomatic battle and it is punishing the State of Israel for it. First it fails to stop the Palestinian accomplishment and then it just decides to give up and forfeit the game," a statement released by Kadima said.


"It is time that Netanyahu understood that his actions are punishing his people more than anyone else. Netanyahu is isolating Israel in the international arena in a feeble attempt to try and excuse his government's failures. The government is expected to bolster Israel's standing not derail it."


'UN's entire funding at risk'

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the Palestinian efforts to join other United Nations' agencies were "not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody."


Ban warned that "millions and millions" of people could be affected if UN agencies see their funding cut as a result of the Palestinian bids.


The United States and Canada have cut off funding for UNESCO following its PA vote, stripping it of about 25% of its total funding.


UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova urged the US on Wednesday to "find a way" to continue funding the agency


"I call on the US administration, Congress and the American people to find a way forward and continue support for UNESCO in these turbulent times," Bokova said in a statement.


Following this growing criticism, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki announced that the PA would not pursue admission to additional UN agencies at this time; but rather it would focus its efforts on its UN Security Council bid and in trying to be accepted as a full member at the UN.  


Elior Levy, Moran Azulay and AP contributed to this report




פרסום ראשון: 11.03.11, 14:35
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