Israel Political Brief May 20, 2013: Israel cancels UNESCO visit, cites politics by Palestinians



Israel cancels UNESCO visit, cites politics by Palestinians

Source: JTA, 5-20-13

Israeli officials canceled a UNESCO inspection of sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, saying the Palestinians had politicized the agency’s visit….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief April 24, 2013: Israel to allow UNESCO inspectors in Jerusalem



Israel to allow UNESCO inspectors in Jerusalem

Source: JTA, 4-24-13

Israel has agreed to allow UNESCO to inspect sites in Jerusalem in exchange for the postponing of five Palestinian-sponsored resolutions critical of Israel….READ MORE 

Isael Political Brief November 30, 2011: Israel releases Palestinian Authority funds



Israel releases PA funds

Source: JTA, 11-30-11

Israel released $100 million in tax funds it had withheld from the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday the handover of the money, the transfer of which had been frozen on Nov. 1 in response to the Palestinians’ recognition as a state by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and scientific agency.

Israel, which collects tax and customs on behalf of the Palestinian Authority under interim peace accords from the 1990s, has been troubled by the PA’s lobbying for full U.N. membership as bilateral negotiations remain stalled.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the decision to free the cash, a month’s worth of levies that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority depends on to pay its civil servants, “followed the cessation of unilateral steps on the part of the Palestinian Authority.”

“In the event of the Palestinian Authority resuming unilateral steps, the money transfer will again be reviewed,” the statement said.

Among those opposed to relinquishing the cash was Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who noted that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has feted terrorists freed by Israel as part of last month’s prisoner swap with Hamas.

But Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party is a junior party to Netanyahu’s Likud in the conservative coalition, said Monday that he would not quit the government in protest at a restoration of the PA funds.

Israel Political Brief November 28, 2011: PM Netanyahu tells Knesset Committee he’s considering releasing frozen PA funds



Netanyahu says he’s considering releasing frozen PA funds

Source: JTA, 11-28-11

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Knesset committee that he could release frozen Palestinian Authority funds soon.

Netanyahu reportedly told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that he is reconsidering holding $100 million in Palestinian tax revenues collected by Israel since the Palestinians have halted their bid to be accepted into international organizations.

Israel has been withholding the tax payments collected on the Palestinians’ behalf since the Palestinians were accepted as a full member of UNESCO, the United Nations scientific and cultural agency. It has continued to withhold them over Fatah-Hamas unity talks….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief November 23, 2011: UN’s Ban tells Netanyahu to release PA funds



U.N.’s Ban tells Netanyahu to release PA funds

Source: JTA, 11-23-11

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hand over tax monies collected for the Palestinian Authority.

Ban in a phone call Tuesday also told Netanyahu to stop building in Jewish settlements.

Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority about $100 million in tax payments collected on the Palestinians’ behalf each month.

“The secretary-general appealed to Prime Minister Netanyahu to immediately resume the transfer of Palestinian tax and customs revenues, in line with Israel’s legal obligations,” Ban’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told the French news agency AFP. “He also expressed his deep concern about Israel’s announcement of further settlement expansions, including in east Jerusalem, which undermine current peace efforts and violate international law.”

Netanyahu and his inner Cabinet of eight ministers in a meeting Sunday decided to continue the suspension that began early this month, shortly after the Palestinians were admitted as a full member of UNESCO, the U.N.’s scientific and cultural agency. The suspension will continue, according to Haaretz, due to new movement between Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government.

The defense establishment, including Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, has called for the payments to be reinstated. Israeli security services reportedly have argued that withholding the funds, which go in part to pay Palestinian police officers, could hamper security arrangements in the West Bank.

Israel Political Brief October 31, 2011: U.S. to withhold UNESCO dues over Palestinian membership



U.S. to withhold UNESCO dues over Palestinian membership

Source: JTA, 10-31-11

The United States, saying it has no choice, will stop paying its dues to UNESCO following the U.N. cultural agency’s vote to grant full membership to the Palestinians.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization approved the Palestinians’ bid Monday during its general assembly in Paris by a vote of 107 to 14, with the United States, Canada and Germany among those voting against the motion. Britain was among the 52 nations that abstained.

UNESCO is the first U.N. agency that the Palestinians have attempted to join since asking for full membership in the United Nations in September. It previously had observer status at the agency.

The vote activated legislation adopted nearly two decades ago that prohibits U.S. funding to U.N. agencies that accord the Palestine Liberation Organization statehood status.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that a $60 million payment to UNESCO scheduled for November will not be delivered. The U.S. annual dues to UNESCO comprises more than 20 percent of the agency’s budget.

“Today’s vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,” Nuland said.

The United States will lose its vote in UNESCO if it does not pay its dues for two years. Reportedly the U.S. is concerned that the Palestinians will now request membership in other U.S. agencies in which the U.S. would lose its influence if it halts dues payments.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry in a statement issued following the vote called the decision a “unilateral Palestinian maneuver which will bring no change on the ground but further removes the possibility for a peace agreement.”

“This decision will not turn the Palestinian Authority into an actual state, yet places unnecessary burdens on the route to renewing negotiations. Israel believes that the correct and only way to make progress in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians is through direct negotiations without preconditions,” the statement said. “The Palestinian move at UNESCO, as with similar such steps with other U.N. bodies, is tantamount to a rejection of the international community’s efforts to advance the peace process.

The statement went on to thank the countries that “displayed a sense of responsibility” by opposing the bid.

Unlike in the U.N. Security Council, where its permanent members such as the United States hold veto power over legislation, there is no veto in UNESCO. The United States had boycotted UNESCO for nearly 20 years until 2003, when it returned to the agency.

In November 2010, UNESCO adopted several proposals by Arab states classifying Jewish and Muslim holy sites. It referred to Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as a mosque, in addition to using its Jewish designation of Rachel’s Tomb, and said the tomb as well as the Cave of the Patriarchs was “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories.” It called both landmarks “Palestinian sites.”

Israel Political Brief October 5, 2011: Israel’s Reaction to UNESCO Vote on Palestinian Authority Membership

Israel’s Reaction to UNESCO Vote

Communicated by Foreign Ministry spokesman

“Israel believes that the correct and only way to advance the peace process with the Palestinians is through direct, unconditional  negotiations. In this context Israel welcomed and accepted the Quartet’s declaration of September 23rd 2011.

The Palestinians’ actions at UNESCO negate both the bilateral negotiations route and the Quartet’s proposal for continuing the diplomatic process. Their actions are a negative response to Israel’s and the international community’s efforts to promote the peace process.

UNESCO’s responsibilities address culture, science and education. UNESCO has remained silent in the face of significant change across the Middle East yet has found time during its current meeting to adopt six decisions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decision to grant the Palestinians membership of UNESCO will not advance their desire for an independent state whatsoever.

Israel thanks the United States, Germany, Latvia and Romania who opposed the decision.”

Israel Political Brief October 5, 2011: Palestinian Authority Pushes for Full UNESCO Membership



PA Pushes for Full UNESCO Membership

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 10-5-11

The Palestinian Authority is losing no time is pushing its agenda of gaining diplomatic ground as a full member in as many United Nations committees and agencies as possible, in the context of gaining statehood via the international body, rather than negotiations with Israel.

Three diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press Wednesday that the PA plans to request full member status on Wednesday at the executive board meeting of the United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.

The PA submitted its application to the U.N. Security Council last month, demanding full membership and recognitionsecurity council un as a sovereign nation with its boundaries along the 1949 Armistice Lines, and claiming much of Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem, as its own capital.

Currently the PA holds observer status in the U.N. and in UNESCO, but may have a good chance of winning full membership, since the process for doing so is easier than it is in the full U.N.

However, this is not the first time the PA has attempted to gain full membership in UNESCO, and in the past, the attempt has failed. Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, told the Associated Press that he is trying to persuade other members “not to politicize” the agency and to “leave this subject to New York.”

Barkan commented that “The tragedy is that this hampers UNESCO from doing its real job. A relatively small minority is hijacking the organization for other purposes.”

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called on lawmakers to cut off U.S. funds to UNESCO if the PA effort succeeds this time.

The PA won partnership status this week in the European Union’s leading human rights body, the Council of Europe, and also is seeking membership in the World Trade Organization.

PA representatives are hoping in this way to pile up memberships in U.N. agencies as a means of forcing the membership issue in the general worldwide body.

The United States, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has already stated bluntly that it will exercise its veto to block the PA from gaining full membership in the U.N. if necessary. But it is not at all clear whether the entity has enough votes to pass such a resolution in any case. Nine votes are needed in the Council to approve the measure.

The Congress of the United States, which warned the PA not to go ahead with its unilateral statehood bid, meanwhile has made good on its threat to cut off funding in response, leaving a number of aid programs scrambling for support and causing concern among government officials from the White House to Ramallah. Promises of aid from Arab nations pledged at donor conferences that never materialized left the PA largely dependent on funding from Western nations — most prominent among them the United States.


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