Israel Slashes UN Funding by $1 Million Over UNESCO Vote Critical of Israeli Policy

New cut to Israel's membership fees reduces yearly payment to UN to $2.7 million ■ Foreign Ministry summons Swedish ambassador for supporting resolution

Jerusalem.
Jerusalem. RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters

Israel will cut another $1 million dollars in funding to the UN, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at a cabinet meeting Wednesday morning following the passage of a UNESCO resolution critical of Israeli policy a day earlier.

"UNESCO's decision is bizarre," said Netanyahu, "and this harrassment has a price."

Unlike previous UNESCO resolutions that ignored the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, the version that passed on Tuesday was much softer in language. Still, Israeli officials were not pleased. They said the resolution remains political in character and still includes criticism of Israel.

Over the course of 2016, Israel transfered $11.7 million to the UN in membership fees. The amount each country pays for membership is set according to that country's size. Netanyahu previously ordered $6 million to be cut from the funds in tranfers to the UN after the passing of Security Council Resolution 2334 against settlements in the West Bank.

Another $2 million was cut one month ago after a UN Human Rights Council decision against the settlements.

After the new cut announced by Netanyahu on Wednesday, Israel is set to pay just $2.7 million in membership fees annually. Senior officials in Jerusalem said that UN member states that have accumulated debt for not paying their membership fees may find themselves denied the right to vote in some UN institutions.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry summoned the Swedish Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser Wednesday morning, following Sweden’s support for the UNESCO resolution critical of Israel's policy a day earlier.

Twenty-two countries voted in favor of the resolution, which expressed criticism of Israeli conduct in Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Sweden was the only Western country to support the resolution. France, Spain, Slovenia and Estonia were among the 23 that abstained from voting, while the United States, Italy, Great Britain, Holland, Lithuania and Greece voted against it.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the Swedish ambassador was received by Rodica Radian-Gordon, the ministry's deputy director general for Western Europe, and Alon Bar, its deputy director of international organizations. Nahshon said that the two expressed Israel's bitter disappointment in the Swedish vote. "This is a vote against Israel and a part of a systematic voting pattern," the two told the ambassador.

However, the results of the vote were much better than Israel had feared last week. Intensive Israeli diplomatic effort succeeded in breaking up the agreement between 11 European countries on UNESCO's executive committee and the Palestinians and the Arab states.

The agreement, which was promoted by Germany, called for Arab states to agree to the softer wording in exchange for the European countries' commitment to support the resolution or abstain from voting.

Israel exerted heavy pressure on several EU nations to abandon the deal and vote against the resolution. Ultimately, Italy informed the other European countries the day before the vote that it planned to oppose the resolution and break the consensus. Great Britain, Holland, Lithuania, Greece and in the end, even Germany said they would oppose the resolution as well.