After UNESCO vote, Israel cuts another $1m. from UN budget

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a reception for foreign diplomats in Israel marking Israel's 69th Independence Day, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a reception for foreign diplomats in Israel marking Israel’s 69th Independence Day, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jerusalem now to pay only $2.7m out of a required $11.7m, but officials unconcerned Israel could lose right to vote at UN bodies

(SOURCE)   Israel said Wednesday it would further reduce the amount it pays annually to the United Nations in retaliation for the latest resolution critical of its policies.

One day after the UN’s cultural agency passed a resolution disputing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would cut another $1 million from its payments to the UN, bringing the total cuts since December 2016 to $9 million.

“This systematic harassment has a price,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting, referring to the UNESCO resolution, which calls Israel an “occupying power” in Jerusalem and criticizes the government for archaeological projects in the capital and in Hebron and lambasts its naval blockade of the Gaza strip.

“In the wake of the resolution, I have instructed Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem to deduct $1 million from the funds that Israel transfers to the UN. Israel will not sit by while the organization calls for the denial of our sovereignty in Jerusalem,” he said.

Netanyahu’s statement marks the third time in less than a year that Israel has reacted to UN resolutions it deems biased against it by announcing the slashing of its payments to the body.

In December, after the Security Council passed Resolution 2334, Netanyahu ordered $6 million cut from Israel’s payment to the UN. And in March, after the Human Rights Council passed five anti-Israel resolutions, Netanyahu vowed to cut an additional $2 million.

“This considerable sum, almost NIS 40 million, will be transferred to the Foreign Ministry, which is doing exceptional work,” he said at the time. “They will use it to develop our relations with countries that want to be close to Israel and are cultivating friendship with it.”

The General Assembly requires all 193 UN member states to pay a percentage of the United Nations’ regular budget, based on their GDP. According to the UN Secretariat, Israel is expected to pay $11.7 million this year, or 0.43 percent of the regular budget.

Under Article 19 of the UN Charter, any country in arrears of its dues payments in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly.

After three rounds of cuts, Israel will pay only $2.7 million. However, Israeli officials said there is no need to worry about Israel losing its voting rights. “We’re not there yet, not at all,” one senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

UNESCO’s Executive Board on Tuesday — Israel’s Independence Day — passed the resolution with 22 countries in favor, 23 abstentions, 10 opposed, and the representatives of three countries absent.

UNESCO delegates prior to the opening of the organization's 2013 General Conference in Paris, France. (AP/Benjamin Girette)

UNESCO delegates prior to the opening of the organization’s 2013 General Conference in Paris, France. (AP/Benjamin Girette)

Israeli politicians across the political spectrum condemned the vote.

“Yesterday, UNESCO again passed a ludicrous resolution regarding Israel’s status in Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” Netanyahu said Wednesday at the weekly cabinet meeting. “I very much appreciate the across-the-board unity of almost all political parties in rejecting this absurd decision.”

However, the prime minister also mentioned that the number of countries supporting the biannual anti-Israel resolution at UNESCO had dropped.

“More countries opposed this resolution than last year and fewer countries supported it,” he said. He thanked Italy for being the first European country to announce its intention to vote against the text, which destroyed the hope of other countries on the continent to reach an agreement on supporting or abstaining on the resolution.

Netanyahu also thanked the US, the UK, Greece, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Paraguay and Togo for voting against it.

“For the first time in UNESCO, more countries voted to oppose or abstained than voted in favor, and of course this is important,” he said.

However, that statement appeared to be inaccurate. In April 2016, 24 countries voted for a similar UNESCO resolution, with six opposing and 26 abstaining.

“We are working constantly to increase support for Israel in international bodies in order to reflect our growing status vis-à-vis bilateral contacts with countries,” Netanyahu said. “We are also working constantly to reduce, and I hope one day to cancel altogether, the UN theater of the absurd regarding the State of Israel.”

News agencies contributed to this report.