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Israel Freezes Contribution to UNESCO

Israel will freeze its annual contribution to UNESCO in the wake of the agency’s vote to give full membership to the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel’s $2 million annual contribution to the United Nations cultural agency would be withheld and instead be directed to cooperative initiatives in the region working toward the same goals as UNESCO.

“Such steps will not advance peace; they will only push it further away,” Netanyahu said following the announcement, referring to this week’s vote. “The only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations without preconditions.”

The United States, applying a long-standing law, cut funding to UNESCO following the vote. Its annual dues make up more than 20 percent of the agency’s budget.

Meanwhile, the director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, called on the United States to reinstate its funding, saying the cutoff jeopardized programs that are important to the U.S. Bokova also said that without the U.S. funding, the agency will not be able to maintain its current level of activity, The Associated Press reported.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told AP on Thursday that Palestinian efforts to seek membership in other U.N. agencies are are “not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody.”

The Palestinians have said that they will ask for full membership in another 16 U.N. agencies.

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