Israel freezes UNESCO funds

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the opening of the winter session of the Israeli parliament.

Story highlights

  • Palestinian leader says focus should be on full U.N. membership
  • Israel is upset that UNESCO accepted the Palestinians
  • It froze $2 million it gives annually to the organization
  • The United States had done the same earlier
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his country Thursday to freeze payments to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after that agency admitted the Palestinians as full members.
The move follows a U.S. decision to do the same.
Israel is withholding its contributions to UNESCO because it says accepting the Palestinians is detrimental to potential peace talks.
"Such steps will not advance peace; they will only push it further away," Netanyahu said. "The only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations without preconditions."
The prime minister ordered that the $2 million it gives UNESCO yearly be used to fund similar initiatives in the region.
U.S. reacts to UNESCO Palestinian vote
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The United States already had announced that it will withhold the $80 million it contributes annually.
The U.S. government opposes what it calls unilateral moves to establish a Palestinian state, saying such steps go against efforts to restart direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution to their long-running conflict.
The vote by UNESCO was separate from a Palestinian bid for U.N. membership that remains under consideration by members of the Security Council.
Also Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave instructions to Palestinian officials not to apply for membership with any other U.N. agencies, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki said, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
Abbas wants to focus all attention on getting full U.N. membership, Maliki said.