The 58 members of UNESCO are expected to vote Thursday on an anti-Israeli resolution that disregards Judaism’s historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall. The resolution is expected to pass by a large majority.
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Israel has made efforts to block the resolution or at least soften it, but succeeded only in swaying the positions of a few member states.
The resolution proposal, which condemns Israel on several issues regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites, was advanced by the Palestinians alongside Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, asserts that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. However, it includes a special section dealing with the Temple Mount, which says the site is sacred only to Muslims and fails to mention that it is sacred to the Jews as well. In fact, 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.
Also, the resolution calls the Western Wall plaza by the Arab-Muslim name al-Buraq plaza. Only afterward does the Hebrew-Jewish name “Hakotel Hama’aravi” appear in quotation marks.
The UNESCO draft resolution:
A senior Israeli official said this version is a bid to cast doubt on the connection between the Western Wall and the Jewish Temple.
The UNESCO executive board made a similar resolution at the organization’s previous conference in April. The resolution was passed with the support of a number of European states, headed by France. This caused an acute diplomatic crisis between Israel and France, which included a harsh telephone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande.
The French president and other senior French officials promised after that incident that they would not support such resolutions in the future.
In the past weeks the Israeli ambassador at UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen and Israeli ambassadors in dozens of capitals worldwide attempted to convince as many states as possible to oppose the resolution, or to at least abstain or not vote at all.
The Foreign Ministry issued a brochure with pictures of archaeological findings proving the historic affiliation between the Jews and Jerusalem in general and the Temple Mount in particular, as well as the existence of the Temple Mount at the site where the Al-Aqsa Mosque stands today.
One of the findings shown in the brochure is the Arch of Titus in Rome, on which images of holy artifacts that the Romans took as spoils from the Second Temple in Jerusalem are depicted. These include the Menorah, which is the symbol of the Israeli state today.
In a letter Shama-Hacohen distributed to the ambassadors of UNESCO’s executive board’s 58 member states, he wrote that without undermining other religions’ affiliation to Jerusalem’s holy sites, the archaeological facts and historical evidence presented by the accompanying brochure “leave no doubtof the deepest and longest Jewish presence in Jerusalem since ancient times.”
He wrote that every attempt to distort history and undercut the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem “is an attempt to rewrite history in a dangerous, unfair and one-sided manner.”
A senior Foreign Ministry official said that although the resolution is expected to pass, Israel’s diplomatic efforts had achieved some results. For example, France is expected to keep its promise and abstain from voting. Spain, Sweden and Argentina are also expected to abstain and Israel hopes Slovenia will join them.
The official said Israel received information over the past week that numerous Arab states, including those that signed the resolution proposal with the Palestinians, support it due to public opinion at home. “A number of Arab states have reportedly expressed considerable dissatisfaction with the Palestinians’ moves in UNESCO,” he said.
“They speak out sharply against the Palestinians and say they exaggerate and become more radical but stress they have no choice but to support the resolution out of domestic political considerations.”
Shama-Hacohen told Haaretz the move is a blow to UNESCO, as such acts are the reason for the United States’ continued suspension of its membership fees to the organization.
“The Palestinians’ persistence is costing UNESCO about 100 million euros in American membership fees,” he said. “Just a few days ago the American ambassador said in public for the first time at a debate in UNESCO that decisions about Jerusalem prevent the administration from obtaining a majority in Congress to approve the payment.
“Albert Einstein has already said that insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. The Palestinians and Arabs apparently disagree with him, and try time and time again in the same failed manner to sever the strongest tie between a nation and a certain location in human history,” said Shama-Hacohen. “There is no older, deeper and stronger connection than that of the Jewish people to Jerusalem in general and the holy sites in particular.”