Israel will withhold $1 million in payments to the United Nations after a UNESCO resolution declared the country's claim to Jerusalem "null and void." The measure passed the cultural agency's executive board.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of attempting to negate his country's claim to Jerusalem. At its Paris headquarters on Tuesday, Israel's independence day, UNESCO's executive board committee passed a resolution declaring the nation's claim to Jerusalem "null and void."
In Israel's latest diplomatic spat, officials summoned Carl Magnus Nesser, Sweden's ambassador to Tel Aviv, to express their "disappointment" after Sweden became the only EU country to vote for the resolution.
The text denounced actions taken by "Israel, the occupying power ... to alter the character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem" and criticized the country's annexation of Jerusalem in 1967 - a move never internationally recognized. The resolution also criticizes Israel's excavations in East Jerusalem and two sites in the West Bank as well as its blockade of the Gaza Strip, calling them violations of international law.
The Palestinian Authority's Foreign Ministry praised the resolution for reaffirming "the centrality of Jerusalem to world heritage, as well as the need to confront the dangers posed by the illegal practices of Israel, the occupying power ... which threaten the cultural and historical integrity of these invaluable sites."
Palestinians seek eastern Jerusalem as their future capital. Israel, which claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, has long alleged bias on the part of its fellow UN members.
The UNESCO commission's decision goes to the executive board plenary, which will consider it on Friday, according to a spokesman for the organization.
'Holy and important'
Including Russia and China, 22 countries approved the resolution. The United States, Germany, Italy and seven other countries voted against it. Twenty-three nations abstained.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered his Foreign Ministry to cut an additional $1 million (917,000 euros) from Israel's annual UN dues. Israel had paid about $11.7 million annually to the UN but has cut $9 million since January, according to the Foreign Ministry.
In October, UNESCO passed a resolution that criticized Israel for restricting access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in annexed east Jerusalem. Some Jews refer to the site as the Temple Mount and consider it the holiest site in Judaism. Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO over that issue.
mkg/sms (AFP, dpa, AP)