In Protest of Latest UNESCO Resolution, Netanyahu to Recall Israel's Ambassador for Consultations

'The theater of the absurd continues,' Israeli prime minister says, adding that he and the Israeli ambassador to UNESCO will discuss further measures.

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Israel's Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen discards a resolution on Jerusalem, saying it 'belongs in the garbage bin of history,' November 10, 2016.
Israel's Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen discards a resolution on Jerusalem, saying it 'belongs in the garbage bin of history,' November 10, 2016.Credit: Permanent mission of Israel to the UN
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

In protest of UNESCO's adoption of yet another resolution ignoring Judaism's connection to the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will recall Israel's UNESCO Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen to Jerusalem for consultations, Haaretz has learned.

"The theater of the absurd continues, and I have decided to invite Israel's ambassador to UNESCO back to Israel for consultations. We will decide what to do and what follow-up measures will face this organization," Netanyahu said Wednesday night at IDC Herzliya.

Shama-Hacohen said following the vote that he had been informed that Netanyahu intended on recalling him to Israel for consultations. "This is a necessary step in light of the recent decisions in UNESCO," he said.

"The basis and motivation for this decision is the desire to rethink and reevaluate the relations with UNESCO in light of the continued persecution of the State of Israel and the Jewish people in this organization. In the coming days it is likely that discussions will be held and other possible steps will be examined," said Shama-Hacohen.

The new resolution was adopted earlier on Wednesday with ten member states supporting the motion, two opposing it and eight abstaining. A representative of one member state was absent. The resolution was submitted by Lebanon and Tunisia for Jordan and the Palestinians, who are not among the World Heritage Committee's 21 member states.

In contrast to a similar resolution passed two weeks ago, the current one is softer in wording. For instance, the resolution refers to the Western Wall by its Jewish name, which is not in quotation marks, as it has been in previous motions. Additionally, references to the site by its Muslim name, al-Buraq plaza, have been removed.

Even though the motion passed, Israel gained some diplomatic points since it was able to "force" a vote on the resolution. A senior Israeli official said that the United States helped Israel to try to recruit countries that would demand a vote, thereby enable countries interested in doing so to vote for or against, or to abstain.

Thanks to the Israeli efforts, Croatia supported a secret vote and the American efforts convinced Tanzania to do so as well. When the Croatian and Tanzanian ambassadors publicly announced their demand for a secret vote, an uproar ensued in the hall and representatives of the Arab countries on the panel tried to prevent a vote from being held. 

Shama-Hacohen then took the floor and announced that the regulations require holding a vote. After a short recess and attempts to delay the vote, a secret vote was held. In the end, more countries opposed the decision or abstained than voted in favor.

After the vote, Shama-Hacohen told Haaretz: "The Palestinians and the Arab countries were left at the end of the day without the consensus that they were sure was in their pocket."

"Aside from the Muslim countries, only Cuba and Vietnam supported them," Shama-Hacohen added. "We were able to surprise them at the last moment, and for that the Foreign Ministry deserves the credit.”

"We especially want to thank Croatia and Tanzania, which courageously put themselves on the line for Israel and openly demanded a vote, against the entire Arab world."

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