Saturday, December 24, 2016

Netanyahu Orders Israeli Government Review of UN Funding

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, voicing outrage at a U.N. Security Council vote calling for an end to further settlement activity in the occupied territories, said Saturday that he had ordered his government to stop funding five U.N. institutions.

The vote passed the 15-member Security Council on Friday after the United States chose not to veto the resolution, as it has in numerous other instances when other council members sought to rein in Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In televised remarks, Netanyahu said that his order would withhold nearly $8 million in funding to unnamed U.N. institutions and that “there is more to come.” He did not elaborate.

He said he had ordered his Foreign Ministry to review within a month all of Israel’s engagements with the world body, including all funding and the presence of U.N. representatives on Israeli soil.

FILE - A general view of a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, March 14, 2011.

FILE – A general view of a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, March 14, 2011.

Netanyahu called the U.S. abstention and the resolution itself “shameful” and said his government would ignore its provisions. He also recalled Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal — two of the resolution’s four sponsors — and suspended Israeli aid programs to the West African nation.

Turning his displeasure on the U.S. government, he then accused President Barack Obama of backing out of a long-standing commitment to stand by Israel.

“The [Obama] decision not only does not help us make peace, it stands in the way of peace,” he said.

For their part, Palestinians and Arab countries across the region hailed the vote.

Former Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat called the vote “a clear and unanimous message” to Netanyahu that his policies would not lead to peace or security, either in Israel or elsewhere in the region.

Map of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Map of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The French news agency AFP quoted a Hamas spokesman as voicing appreciation to those envoys who had voted for the resolution. Fawzy Barhoum described the ballot as “a vote for the right of the Palestinian people [to live] on their land.”

Citing biblical connections to the land, Israel has for decades built Jewish settlements on territories seized from its Arab neighbors in the Six-Day War of 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Most countries view those settlements as well as those abandoned by Israel in Gaza a decade ago as illegal and a principal obstacle to regional peace.

With that dichotomy firmly in place Saturday, Netanyahu made clear that his government looked forward to working with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump “to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”

Trump takes office January 20.

On Friday, Trump promised changes in the U.S. role at the United Nations once he takes office. In a tweet, he said “things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

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