Israel rushes settlement growth after Unesco accepts Palestinians

The Guardian reports: Israel is to expedite the construction of about 2,000 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid to join Unesco.

Israel also imposed a temporary halt on the transfer of tax revenues which it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) pending a final decision on whether to impose a long-term freeze. Israel collects about £630m a year in VAT and customs revenues which it passes on to the PA.

A meeting of eight senior cabinet ministers agreed the punitive measures – which include a ban on Unesco missions to Israel – on Tuesday following the symbolically significant vote at the United Nations’ cultural and educational agency.

The ministers are to reconvene to discuss further actions which may include revoking the special status of Palestinian ministers and senior officials which allows them to pass through Israeli military checkpoints.

In response, the PA said the Israeli measures would “speed up the destruction of the peace process”. Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, described the decision to temporarily halt transfers of funds as “inhumane”.

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