After Mexico Changes Its Position, UNESCO to Hold New Vote on Contentious Jerusalem Resolution

Mexico's dramatic decision forces a new vote on the Temple Mount resolution, scheduled to be held on Tuesday. Several Western states, however, are pressing Mexico to not invoke a precedent-setting clause.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Israeli police accompany Jewish visitors past the Dome of the Rock during a visit to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 25, 2016.
Israeli police accompany Jewish visitors past the Dome of the Rock during a visit to the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, April 25, 2016.Credit: Ahmad Gharabli, AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

UNESCO's executive board will revisit the recent resolution adopted on Jerusalem at the behest of the Mexican government, which seeks to change its vote. Mexico voted in favor of the resolution last week, but triggered a special clause allowing them to demand a recast vote in order to change its decision.

The Mexican government has decided to vote against the resolution, instead of abstaining. A senior official in Jerusalem 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. When the vote came to pass, however, Mexico's Ambassador to UNESCO Andreas Roemer received a directive from Mexico's Foreign Ministry to vote in favor.

Mexico's dramatic decision means a new vote on the Jerusalem resolution must be held on Tuesday. The vote, originally scheduled to be held at 11 A.M., was delayed.

Mexico's Ambassador to UNESCO Andreas Roemer and Israel's Ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen.Credit: Haaretz

A senior Israeli official attributed the delay to the fact that several Western countries who voted against the resolution and favor of Israel are pressuring Mexico not to invoke Section 47 of the rules of procedure to force a new vote, but to instead settle for a statement about changing their position. According to the official, several countries are concerned the precedent would open the door to a future unanimous decision concerning crimea.

Even though the new vote is expected to be approved by a large majority, it may still allow countries to revisit their vote. Israel hopes that other states besides Mexico will move to vote against the resolution.

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."

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