UNESCO admits Palestine; Israel to expand West Bank settlements and suspend PA tax transfer

Midest Israel Palestinians

FILE - In this March 13, 2011 file photo, a Palestinian works at a construction site in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusal

Israel on Tuesday night decided to accelerate settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem one day after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) accepted the Palestinian Authority (PA) to become its full member.

Israel also decided to temporarily suspend the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.

Israel’s settlement expansion will destroy the peace process, the PA warned. “It’s a blow to the Quartet to achieve peace,” said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The talk about freezing tax revenues belonging to the Palestinian Authority is a provocation and theft of our money,” Rudaineh said. “We call on the Quartet to put an end to these practices.”

Israel will approve the construction of more than 2,000 new housing units, including 1,650 units in East Jerusalem, 327 in two West Bank settlements, 277 in Efrat and 50 in Ma’aleh Adumim.

In addition to the construction, Israel will suspend the transfer of tax funds to the PA. The transfer mechanism of tax revenues, which Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians under interim peace deals, provides the PA with $1 billion to $1.4 billion annually.

Israel may stop funding UNESCO, said Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

“It would be odd to continue transferring funds to the organization when the US itself has stopped the payments,” Steinitz said yesterday in an interview with Israel Radio.

As a close ally of Israel, the US has announced Monday that it would freeze a $60 million payment to UNESCO scheduled for later this month.

Israel pays an annual $2 million to UNESCO.