Israel halts $2 million payments to UNESCO

PM Netanyahu says UNESCO acceptance of Palestine as member state "distances peace"; Kadima says gov't doing "everything wrong."

36th session of UNESCO (photo credit: Reuters)
36th session of UNESCO
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israel on Thursday froze its $2 million annual contribution to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), after it voted on Monday to accept “Palestine” as its 195th member.
“Such steps will not advance peace; they will only push it further away,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “The only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations without preconditions.”
RELATED:UNESCO appeals to US to unfreeze 60m. in funds
Netanyahu ordered that the money be re-directed to cooperative initiatives working toward the same goals in the region.
Earlier this week, the US froze a $60m. payment to the UN agency, and Canada said it was not sending it any more money, after the $1.3m. Canadian dollars that it has already given for this year.
The US is UNESCO’s top funder, and its 2011 contribution, of which only $1.8m. was actually paid, was to have made up 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget.
UNESCO on Wednesday appealed to the US to find a way to continue its funding.
The transfers were automatically halted after the vote on the Palestinians’ application, in accordance with a US law that mandates that funding be halted to any UN body that recognizes a Palestinian state outside the context of a peace deal.
Earlier in the day, Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said that the effort by the Palestinians to join UN agencies was not beneficial.
According to his office, the secretary-general “was expressing his long-standing concerns about the peace process, as well as about funding questions for the UN agencies.”
The Palestinians plan to appeal to other UN agencies for statehood recognition.
In September, it asked the UN to be recognized as a full member of the organization.
The Security Council, which must approves such requests, is examining the matter.
It can only be approved with the support of nine members. But five of the 15 members have veto power and the United States has already said that it plans to make use of the veto, if necessary, to reject the request.
A UN Security Council subcommittee is expected to report on the matter next Friday.
Jordana Horn contributed to this report from New York.