World

Israel Slashes U.N. Funding by $2 Million Because of 'Discrimination'

Netanyahu at the U.N.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves goodbye after addressing the 71st United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 22, 2016. Israel announced Wednesday that it would cancel $2 million in funding for the U.N. Reuters/Mike Segar

Israel announced Wednesday that it would slash $2 million in funding for the United Nations because of recent “anti-Israel” votes at the world body.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the “obsessional discrimination against Israel on the part of the United Nations and its agencies” was the reason for the cut.

It said that instead of sending the money to the U.N., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “decided to allocate the $2 million to international aid and to investment in developing countries which support Israel in international bodies.”

The cuts will leave Israel in arrears to the U.N., but it will unlikely lose its vote at the General Assembly. That only happens in the event that a country’s debt exceeds its owings to the body in the two years prior, under Article 19 of the U.N’s charter.

Israel continues to have a fraught relationship with the world body that it views as unfairly focusing on its actions. Israeli officials frequently namecheck countries they deem to be worse human rights abusers.

The U.N. council regularly criticizes Israel for its policies towards the Palestinians. The country maintains a military occupation over more than 2 million Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in territories that it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

It continues to build Jewish outposts, which the U.N. and the majority of the international community deem to be illegal, in these territories. The Palestinians seek a sovereign state in these territories, as well as the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Read more: Trump's U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley pledges to end “Israel-bashing”

The U.N. Human Rights Council has an agenda item, known as Agenda Item Seven, for only one country: Israel. U.N. officials are regularly critical of Israel, too. Last week, Michael Lynk, the U.N. official tasked with overseeing East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, alleged that Israel participated in “the subjugation of [Palestinians’] humanity.”

Another U.N. agency, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said in a report released earlier this month that Israel was imposing an “apartheid regime” on the Palestinians. The report caused anger in Israel and Washington, forcing the resignation of the agency’s chief.

It is this focus on Israel and its policies that the government and its supporters say is an unfair playing field in the international arena. The Palestinians say one of the only paths they have to resolve the conflict is through international bodies such as the U.N.

The international community largely supports a two-state solution to end the conflict, while Netanyahu advocates for direct negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas without preconditions, such as the withdrawal of Israeli settlers to pre-1967 borders.

After the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement activity in December 2016, helped by the abstention of the Obama administration despite its close ties to Israel, then-President-elect Donald Trump condemned the U.N. as unfairly treating Israel. After the vote, Israel pledged to cut $6 million in funding for “anti-Israel” U.N. agencies in 2017.

Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has since said that the U.S. may withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council because of its “biased agenda item against Israel.” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., this week addressed the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, pledging to end “Israel-bashing” at the world body.