UNESCO to Hold New Vote on Contentious Jerusalem Resolution This Week

Though softer in wording than the initial resolution, Wednesday's vote will still omit any reference to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in their Jewish context.

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Muslims pray during Laylat al-Qadr in front of the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Jerusalem's Old City July 1, 2016.
Muslims pray during Laylat al-Qadr in front of the Dome of the Rock, on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in JeruCredit: Ammar Awad, Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

UNESCO is expected to vote for Wednesday a second time on the contentious resolution being advanced by the Palestinians on Jerusalem. The new version, which will voted on as part of the agency's heritage committee, will be softer on Israel than the one passed a week and a half ago, but will still omit any reference to the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and will describe the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Haram al-Sharif as a place of Muslim importance alone.

The initial resolution adopted by the UN’s education, science and culture agency disregarded Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and cast doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.

The new resolution was submitted by Lebanon and Tunis for the Palestinians and Jordan, who are not among the heritage committee's 21 member states. In contrast to the previous resolution, the current one is softer in wording. For example, the term "occupying" force is not mentioned in regards to Israel, after years of Palestinian refusal to drop the term in UNESCO resolutions on Jerusalem. Also, in contrast to previous resolutions, the Western Wall was not mentioned in quotation marks.

A senior Israeli official stressed that that change was considered unthinkable a year ago. "Only two weeks ago in negotiations with the Europeans a resolution was put on the table with Western Wall without quotation marks. One of the European ambassadors complimented the Arabs for it and then the Jordanian minister jumped out of his seat and said there will be no such thing and said it was a mistake and nothing more," the official said. Nonetheless, the current decision ignores the connection between the Judaism and the Temple Mount, mentioning the site only in its Muslim context.

Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel's envoy to UNESCO.Credit: Courtesy

The decision is expected to win a majority, but Israel hopes that the heritage committee's European members – Finland, Poland, Croatia and Portugal – will vote against, or at least abstain. Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen said in wake of the storm caused by the initial resolution that many Arab envoys voiced displeasure at the Palestinian conduct. "An ambassador from a prominent Arab state from the Arab bloc said this week that he cannot understand the Palestinians," adding they had created a situation in which "we need to follow suit with the Palestinians."

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