Israel to withhold $1 million to United Nations in wake of UNESCO vote on Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel will withhold $1 million US in its funding for the United Nations following the passage of a resolution that condemns the country’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday, a day after the vote by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), that he has instructed Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem to deduct the money. He called the resolution “delusional.”

“Israel will not sit by while the organization calls for the denial of our sovereignty in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said Wednesday at the start of a Cabinet meeting.

Israel’s annual contribution to the United Nations amounts to over $40 million, a spokesman for the mission told JTA in an email in January after Israel said it would withhold $6 million following a Security Council resolution the previous month condemning settlements.

Tuesday’s resolution, passed on the day that Israel was celebrating its independence, calls on Israel to rescind any “legislative and administrative measures and actions” it has taken to “alter the character and status” of Jerusalem. It rejects the idea of a “basic law” in Jerusalem, based off a 1980 Knesset law, which implies that the city is one unified whole and governed solely by Israel.

Submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, the resolution also sharply criticizes Israel’s construction in eastern Jerusalem’s Old City and “deplores” the Jewish state’s “continuous” closure of the Gaza Strip.

It follows a controversial UNESCO resolution passed last October that ignored Jewish ties to the Western Wall and Temple Mount sites.

Netanyahu noted during Wednesday’s meeting that more countries opposed the resolution passed Tuesday than the UNESCO one from last year and fewer supported it.

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

He singled out the United States for voting against the resolution after it abstained on the Security Council resolution condemning settlements in one of the Obama administration’s last acts.

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