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Israel withholds UN payment, summons Swedish ambassador following UNESCO text

May 4, 2017 4:10 P.M. (Updated: May 6, 2017 6:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli officials have continued to express their disapproval of the passage of a UNESCO resolution critical of Israeli policies in occupied East Jerusalem, as the Israel government undertook retaliatory measures against the UN body.

The resolution -- which passed on Tuesday with 22 countries in favor, 10 voting against, and 23 abstaining -- criticized Israel’s refusal to cease “persistent excavations, tunneling, works, and projects in East Jerusalem,” and stressed that these procedures were illegal under international law.

“All legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the 'basic law' on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith,” the text read.

The resolution also reaffirmed the importance of Jerusalem to the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

The resolution reflected a softer version of a draft resolution passed last year that sharply criticized Israeli policies in Jerusalem. However, Israeli officials nonetheless reacted furiously to the latest resolution, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted by Haaretz as saying that Israel “does not believe in UNESCO.”

Netanyahu also announced that Israel would withhold $1 million in payments to the United Nations in retaliation for the resolution, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

Israel suspended its cooperation with UNESCO following the passage of the draft resolution last year. Israel had previously suspended its funding to UNESCO in 2011, when the UN agency voted to admit Palestine as a full member.

Ynet also reported that the Israeli Foreign Ministry had summoned Swedish Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser to admonish him for his country’s vote in favor of the resolution.

Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, meanwhile, said he was “outraged” by the resolution and accused the United Nations of anti-Israeli bias, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.

“The resolution that UNESCO passed on Tuesday demonstrates once again the ludicrous and anti-Israel nature of the organization,” Barkat said, vowing to continue illegal settlement expansion and Judaization policies in East Jerusalem, and calling the Holy City “the eternal home and capital of the Jewish people.”

Meanwhile, archaeological group Emek Shaveh -- which has long been critical of Israel’s attempts to erase non-Jewish history in the area -- welcome the resolution on Wednesday.

“UNESCO’s decision on Jerusalem yesterday is one of the best, most just, and most long-awaited by the organization,” Emek Shaveh said in a statement, noting that “Israel is working unilaterally in the Old City, digging and advancing its construction, regardless of Jerusalem’s historical character, and of it being a world heritage site.”
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