UNESCO Won't Hold New Vote on Contentious Jerusalem Resolution After Mexico Withdraws Request

After announcing its intention to trigger a special clause allowing them to demand a new vote, Mexico instead opted to issue a statement, echoed by Brazil, on its changed position on the Temple Mount resolution.

The Temple Mount.
Moshe Milner, Reuters

UNESCO's Executive Board will not hold a re-vote on the contentious Jerusalem resolution after Mexico withdrew its request to trigger a special clause in UNESCO bylaws enabling a new vote, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday.

Instead, Mexico announced during an Executive Committee meeting Tuesday morning that it changed its stance due to the position being offensive and biased against the Jewish people and their historic connection to Israel.

Brazil additionally supported Mexico's decision to express its dissatisfaction and reservations concerning the texts, despite improvements which were introduced. Brazil added that it found it difficult to support the resolution in its current iteration for future votes. An Israeli official said earlier Tuesday that Israel hoped other states would take advantage of the new vote to move against the resolution.

Earlier Tuesday, Mexico announced its intentions to trigger a special clause allowing them to demand a recast vote in order to change its decision. A senior Israeli official said earlier Tuesday that Western countries who voted against the resolution pressured Mexico not to invoke the clause, due to the precedent that would be set regarding a future vote on Crimea.

A senior Israeli official said Mexico's changed position can mainly be attributed to the strong protests from Mexico's Jewish community. Senior officials in the Jewish community said that Mexican President Ennrique Pena Nieto promised them, as well as Israeli government officials, during his visit to Israel for former President Shimon Peres' funeral that Mexico would not support the UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem.

The resolution, which passed last week and condemns Israel on a variety of issues related to Jerusalem and its holy sites, was put forward by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. While the draft proposal asserts that Jerusalem is sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, a special clause dealing with the Temple Mount states the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to Jews, as well.

It mentions neither the Hebrew term for the site – Har HaBayit – nor its English equivalent, the Temple Mount. The site is referred to only by its Muslim names – Al-Aqsa Mosque and Haram al-Sharif. Further, the resolution terms the Western Wall Plaza by its Arab name, Al Buraq Rd., only including its Hebrew name in quotes. An Israeli official said these are attempts to question the connection between the Western Wall and the Jewish Holy Temple.

A statement from Mexico's Foreign Ministry stated that the Mexican government recognizes the undeniable connection of the Jewish people to the cultural heritage in East Jerusalem. 

The Foreign Ministry noted its deep appreciation of the Mexican Jewish community, as well as its contribution to the country's development.

As part of Mexico's changed position, Roemer, a Mexican Jew, was removed from his position overnight on Tuesday. A senior Israeli official said that the Mexican ambassador actually opposed Mexico's original vote and tried to change his country's decision but failed. Amid the Mexican Jewish community's protests, it was decided to remove him from his position in an attempt to quell tensions. 

The Mexican Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday that it was opening an internal investigation to examine how its representatives came to support the resolution. The announcement assigned responsibility to the ambassador, since he did not update Mexico City on the context of the vote.

Israel's Ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, said that Israel will not give up on its attempts to fight the decision. "I was in constant contact with the Mexican ambassador, his words touched my heart, and in our last conversation he informed me that his dismissal was inevitable," Shama-Hacohen said. "But at least we managed to change the Mexican position with certainty for the future."

Shama-Hacohen added that the Mexican ambassador's dismissal is "not good news for us, he is a true friend of Israel, but a change in Mexico's voting pattern on Israel is an important diplomatic achievement and a continuation of the trending erosion of support for the Palestinians at UNESCO."