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UN's Ban Ki-moon 'Concerned' Over Israeli Construction

UN Secretary-General criticizes Israel for its decision to accelerate construction of Jewish homes in "occupied Palestinian territory."
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/3/2011, 9:58 AM

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon
Israel News photo: Flash 90

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel on Wednesday for its decision to accelerate the construction of more than 2,000 Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned at the decisions announced by the government of Israel in response to the decision of UNESCO’s General Conference in favor of Palestinian membership,” Ban’s press office said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

The statement said that the UN’s position is that “settlement activity” in what was termed “occupied Palestinian territory” is “contrary to international law” and would undermine efforts aimed at resuming moribund peace talks between the two sides.

Ban urged Israel to “freeze all settlement activity and to continue to transfer value-added tax and customs revenues that belong to the Palestinian Authority and are essential to enable it to function, in line with Israel's obligations.”

He added that he was worried about UNESCO’s finances, after Washington announced that it would cut off funds to the UN cultural agency, as a response for its acceptance of the PA.

“The decision was the prerogative of member states, and Ban wishes to work with them on practical solutions to preserve UNESCO’s financial resources,” the statement said.

The United States announced it would cut off funding to UNESCO shortly after the vote to accept the Palestinian Authority as a member.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced the administration would not make its $60 million payment in November to the agency.

She explained that a longstanding law that prohibits U.S. support for any United Nations-affiliated body that accepts Palestinian Authority membership precludes funding the international body.

Washington provides 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget and is the body’s largest source of funds.

Canada was quick to follow Washington and announced on Tuesday that it will not contribute more to UNESCO.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said his country will not give any more money to the UN’s cultural body to make up for a shortfall after the U.S. cut its funding to the organization.

Baird said that UNESCO will have to “go to the countries who supported this resolution” in order to fill the hole in its budget.

Canada was one of the countries that voted against the PA’s acceptance to UNESCO. The United States, Israel and Germany were among those that voted against as well.