Israel freezes UNESCO funds; Palestinians study vote for clues

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

Story highlights

  • Palestinians studying UNESCO vote for clues on membership backing
  • Israel is upset that UNESCO accepted the Palestinians
  • Country froze $2 million it gives annually to the organization
  • The United States earlier froze is $60 million contribution
The top Palestinian envoy to the United Nations said Thursday that he is carefully "studying" the patterns of the vote that admitted his territory to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The Palestinians hope that they can glean some clues about how various countries would vote on Palestinian membership at the United Nations.
"There are many interesting, you know, patterns of votes," Riyad Mansour said. "For example, there were 11 countries, member states of European Union, that have voted 'yes.'"
UNESCO's vote to admit the Palestinians brought a cessation Monday to a $60 million U.S. aid payment to the organization.
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.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his country Thursday to freeze payments to UNESCO.
U.S. reacts to UNESCO Palestinian vote
U.S. reacts to UNESCO Palestinian vote

    JUST WATCHED

    U.S. reacts to UNESCO Palestinian vote

MUST WATCH

U.S. reacts to UNESCO Palestinian vote 02:27
Israel is withholding its contributions 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.
The vote by UNESCO was separate from a Palestinian bid for U.N. membership that remains under consideration by members of the Security Council.
Citing the fact that Israel's application for U.N. membership in 1948 was at first rejected by the Security Council, Mansour said that the Palestinians would push forward with their bid despite opposition from the United States and some European countries.
"We are not the first country, nor the last country, that we do not prevail for the first time," he said. "If Palestine has to do it this way, that's our destiny."
A special Security Council committee has met nine times to discuss the membership issue, and will issue a formal report to the full council on November 11.
Mansour called the decision by the United States and other countries to block funding to UNESCO "beyond comprehension."
'We should not be punished as a result of that, nor should the UNESCO be punished as a result of that," he said.
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.