Netanyahu Slams ‘Absurd’ UNESCO Vote, Vows to Cut More UN Funding

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday slammed the latest “absurd” resolution passed by the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO calling Israeli presence in Jerusalem “illegal” and ordered that funds to the international body be cut again by another $1 million.

“Enough,” the prime minister said. “The theater of the absurd when it comes to Israel has to stop.”

Netanyahu did however, praise the changes underway in support for Israel in international forums.

“Today there are more countries abstaining or supporting Israel than countries against Israel. That is a change, for the first time,” he added.

At the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Netanyahu said the UN would be penalized.

“There is a price for harassment,” he said. “I directed the director-general of the Foreign Ministry to deduct a further million dollars from the money Israel transfers to the UN.”

Israel already vowed to cut $2 million from the UN budget after the passage in March of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council, and $6 million in January following the Security Council’s passage of anti-settlement resolution 2334. Altogether, only $2.7 million of the original $10.7 million will be given to the international body.

The resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” authored by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, referred to Israel as the “occupying power” in the context of Jerusalem.

It passed on Israel’s 69th Independence Day with 22 votes in favor, 23 abstentions, 10 opposed and representatives of three countries absent.

“In the past two days I had talks with many of the leaders of your countries, heads of state, foreign ministers … regarding the absurd vote that is being held now in the UN,” Netanyahu said at an Independence Day reception for foreign diplomats held at the President’s House in Jerusalem.

“The result is that the number of countries supporting this absurd vote in UNESCO is getting smaller. A year ago, 32 [countries supported similar votes], half a year ago it went down to 26 and now it has gone down to 22.”

“My goal is to have no votes in UNESCO on Israel,” Netanyahu said.

“Last year UNESCO said that the Jewish people have no connection to the Temple Mount,” he said. “Can you imagine?” He laughed before continuing: “3,000 years ago Solomon built his Temple there, and UNESCO said a year ago that we have no connection to the Temple Mount.”

The 10 countries that voted against were the U.S., the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Greece, Paraguay, Ukraine, Togo and Germany. The prime minister made special mention of Italy for being the first to announce that it would vote against the resolution.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a statement that UNESCO is “continuing to falsify history” with a resolution that “only harms the relevance of the organization that is supposed to protect heritage and culture yet again and again abuses its position when it comes to Israel. Israel doesn’t need approval from political bodies for its historical and undisputed connection to our eternal capital Jerusalem, a 3,000-year-old connection that speaks from every stone in the city.”

“Israel appreciates the countries that stood on the side of truth and didn’t give in to politics that is distorting history,” she added.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan thanked the countries that voted against the resolution.

“You are on the right side of history and the truth,” he tweeted.

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog said in a statement that “the UNESCO resolution today against Israel is an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel disgrace that distorts the history of the Jewish people and its unshakable connection to its eternal capital Jerusalem. It is a sad decision without any standing or validity that will find its way to the dustbin of history, just like allegations that Zionism is racism.”

Yesh Atid party leader MK Yair Lapid said in a statement that “the resolution is unfounded and anti-Semitic.”

“No one, including UNESCO, can rewrite Jewish history. Certainly not on the day when Israel is celebrating 69 years of independence as a strong and democratic country. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, it always was and always will be,” he said.

“Once again today we saw how a string of representatives in the United Nations, instead of following the truth, surrender to the anti-Semitic campaign that is led by anti-Israel organizations,” Lapid added.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he was “outraged” by the resolution.

“The resolution that UNESCO passed today demonstrates once again the ludicrous and anti-Israel nature of the organization,” Barkat stated. “Rather than support Jerusalem, they choose to side with our enemies. Our response is to continue to develop and advance the city of Jerusalem, the eternal home and capital of the Jewish people.”

Jewish groups also slammed the resolution. World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called it “a distorted, dangerous and illegitimate revision of history, which serves only as bait for adversaries of Israel seeking to strip the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and deny its historic and religious link to Jerusalem.”

Lauder also praised the ten countries who voted against the resolution for “speaking up for truth and justice.”

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said those countries “asserted moral leadership in unequivocally rejecting this malicious Arab-sponsored resolution.”

“The Palestinian leadership and their allies have consistently abused UNESCO as a forum to censure Israel, including on Israel’s Independence Day today,” Harris added. “This misguided strategy undermines the UNESCO mission, and does nothing to advance the peace that the Palestinians continue to assert they desire.”

B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin stated, “The large number of abstentions and a steadily growing — though limited — number of nations willing to reject an absurd motion attempting to erase Israel’s millennia connection to Jerusalem demonstrates a moral line in the sand.”

Saltzman and Mariaschin blasted Sweden for being the only European nation to vote in favor of the resolution, saying the country “stands out among European nations for its disdain of the facts that link Israel and Jews to the city [Jerusalem].”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt called the resolution “defamatory and problematic in the extreme.”

Hillel Neuer — executive director of the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch – also lauded increased global support for Israel at the UN, telling the Algemeiner that “the Palestinians at UNESCO are hemorrhaging support for their ritual anti-Israel resolutions.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said in a statement: “This biased and blatantly deceitful decision, and the attempts to dispute the connection between Israel and Jerusalem, will not change the simple fact that this city is the historic and eternal capital of the Jewish people. Israel will not stand silently by in the face of this shameful resolution.”

President Reuven Rivlin meanwhile, called for foreign embassies to be moved to the capital, Jerusalem.

“It is time to put an end to the absurd. It is time to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of the State of Israel. De facto, not just de jure. It is time to move all the official embassies here. To Jerusalem.”


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