Last Update 21:41
Sunday, 21 July 2019

Israel 'punishes' Palestinians with new settler homes

Palestinian leaders react angrily after Israel says it will build 2,000 settler homes and freeze the transfer of Palestinian tax funds, as punishment for joining UNESCO

AFP , Wednesday 2 Nov 2011
israel big
Rows of apartment blocks under construction are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev near Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters)
Views: 1258
Views: 1258

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner cabinet decided on Tuesday to speed up construction in east Jerusalem and in nearby settlements, a day after UNESCO's general assembly voted Palestine in as a full member.

"These measures were agreed... as punishment after the vote at UNESCO," a senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We will build 2,000 housing units, including 1,650 homes in east Jerusalem and the rest in the settlements of Maaleh Adumim and Efrat," he added, referring to a sprawling settlement east of Jerusalem and another between Bethlehem and the southern city of Hebron.

"It was also decided to temporarily freeze the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority," he added.

Every month, Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority tens of millions of dollars in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports. The money constitutes a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.

Israel often freezes the transfer of funds as a punitive measure in response to diplomatic or political developments viewed as harmful.

A statement from Netanyahu's office said the decisions were taken during a "first discussion" of the UNESCO issue. Further steps would be considered at the next meeting of the so-called Forum of Eight senior ministers.

The Palestinians' presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina reacted angrily.

He called on the Middle East Quartet and the US administration to "put an end to this recklessness" which he warned would have "negative consequences" for the whole region.

"The Israeli decision to speed up settlement construction with the construction of 2,000 new housing units is an Israeli decision to accelerate the destruction of the peace process," he told AFP.

"And the freezing of funds is stealing money from the Palestinian people."

The Palestinian request for UNESCO membership was approved by the UN cultural organisation's general assembly at a vote in Paris on Monday, despite strong opposition from the United States and Israel.

The move was also likely to cost UNESCO its US funding, which makes up 22 percent of its budget, because US law requires Washington to cut funds to any UN organisation that admits Palestine as a full member.

And Canada announced Tuesday that it would not contribute any extra money to UNESCO to make up for any shortfall from the US cut.

"Canada is deeply disappointed by the decision taken by UNESCO," Foreign Minister John Baird told reporters. "As a result of this decision, Canada has decided to freeze all further voluntary contributions to UNESCO."

But Canada's regular annual $10 million contribution to UNESCO would not be withdrawn, he added.

Israel is also reportedly considering withdrawing the special permits granted to top Palestinian officials that allow them to move between the West Bank and Israel with relative ease.

And servers providing Internet connections to Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza Strip lost all Internet access Tuesday after a cyber-attack.

Palestinian communications minister Mashur Abu Daqqa told AFP he suspected Israeli involvement.

Netanyahu has denounced the UNESCO decision as yet another Palestinian attempt to seek "a state without a deal".

"We won't sit around idly in the wake of these moves that harm Israel and are a crude violation of the most elementary commitment the sides took upon themselves in the peace process—to solve the conflict between us through negotiations only," he said on Monday.

Winning membership in UNESCO will allow the Palestinians, who previously held observer status at the organisation, to apply to classify natural and cultural sites as World Heritage Sites.

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

© 2010 Ahram Online.