Pressure on Palestine increases on UNESCO
JERUSALEM / PARIS
UNESCO managing directors are seen in this photo while voting on Palestine. AFP photoIsrael said yesterday it would freeze its funding to the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO following the group’s decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.
A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said UNESCO’s decision this week damaged chances of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians and that Israel would halt its annual payments of $2 million. Israel’s main ally, the United States, has also stopped its financing. The UNESCO vote on Oct. 31 was a diplomatic victory for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who in the absence of peace talks has pushed for recognition of a Palestinian state at the U.N. Meanwhile, the head of UNESCO is pleading with the U.S. to reinstate funding cut off after the agency granted membership to Palestine. Director-General Irina Bokova warned in a statement Wednesday that the move jeopardizes programs “in America’s core interests,” such as those fostering a free media in nascent Mideast democracies. She said that without U.S. support, “it will be impossible for us to maintain our current level of activity.”