Israel Freezes UNESCO Funding After Palestinian Membership

Netanyahu decides to hold $2 million Israel transfers to UN cultural body yearly; Israel decided Tuesday to expedite settlement building in West Bank in response to PA's UNESCO membership.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided Thursday to freeze funding to UNESCO after it had granted the Palestinians membership on Monday.

Israel transfers some $2 million to the UN cultural body yearly. A source in the Prime Minister's Office said that Netanyahu instructed to transfer those funds to initiatives working toward regional cooperation.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki (L) and Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO Elias Sanbar attend a news conference during the 36th session of UNESCO's conference in Paris, October 31, 2011.

Netanyahu's decision came after a recommendation by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
"These moves, such as accepting the Palestinians into UNESCO, will not advance peace but will only drive it farther away," Netanyahu said. "The only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations without preconditions."

On Tuesday, Netanyahu and his forum of eight senior ministers decided to expedite settlement construction in the West Bank as a part of wider sanctions Israel decided to impose on the Palestinian Authority after UNESCO granted it membership on Monday.