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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Israel cuts contributions to UN in retaliation for Unesco naming Hebron a world heritage site. 

Netanyahu calls the move "another delusional decision by Unesco" 

Palestinians at the at the Ibrahimi mosque, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, on July 8, 2017. Al Hashlamoun / EPA
Palestinians at the at the Ibrahimi mosque, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, on July 8, 2017. Al Hashlamoun / EPA

RAMALLAH, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES// Israel said it will cut its funding to the United Nations in retaliation for Unesco designating Hebron an endangered world heritage site.

The UN's cultural arm announced the decision at a Unesco meeting in Warsaw on Friday, to the fury of the Israelis. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "another delusional decision by Unesco" and said israel would slash $1 million off its UN contribution. it will be the fourth time Israel has cut funding to the UN in the past year, shrinking its contribution from $11 million to $2.7 million.

In May, Mr Netanyahu also slammed a Unesco vote on Jerusalem as "absurd."

The Israeli foreign ministry labelled Unesco's decision "a moral blot" on the UN. it was also denounced by the US ambassadot to the UN, Nikki Haley.

The vote on Hebron was passed by 12 vote to three, with six abstentions. The Unesco committee usually votes via a show of hands but this time, Croatia, Jamaica and Poland requested a secret ballot, prompting a heated discussion which required the chairman to call in security.

There was another moment of intrigue when Israel's ambassador to Unesco, Carmel Shama Hacohen,appeared to almost mock the proceedings. He took the floor after the vote but kept being interrupted by his cell phone.He said it was his plumber who was fixing a problem in his bathroom , adding "and it's much more important than the decision you just adopted."

By listing sites on its World Heritage in Danger list, Unesco seeks to mobilise the international community to protect them. It also allows for the allocation of immediate World Heritage Fund assistance to the property.

Palestinians hailed the decision as recognition of their historical rights.

"This vote is a success for the diplomatic battle fought by Palestine on all fronts, in the face of Israeli and American pressure on member states," the Palestinian foreign ministry said.

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, said it was "an affirmation of our full rights in Hebron and all Palestinian land. Despite a frantic Israeli campaign spreading lies and distorting the facts about the Palestinian rights, the world has recognised our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty."

Hebron claims to be one of the oldest cities in the world. It contains the Ibrahimi Mosque, known to the Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs,as the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.The site is holy to both faiths. But it has also long been a flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A few hundred Israelis live under heavy military protection in the midst of more than 200,000 Palestinians.

In 1994, Israeli-American Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslims praying at the site, killing 29, before being beaten to death by survivors.