Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Friday assailed the anti-Israel resolution adopted by UNESCO last week, saying that he found it "shocking."
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The resolution adopted by the UN's education, science and culture agency disregards Judaism's historic connection to the Temple Mount and casts doubt on the link between Judaism and the Western Wall.
Renzi made the remarks in an interview with Italian radio while on a trip to Brussels. He said that upon his return, he will summon Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni to find out why Italy abstained from the vote instead of voting against the resolution.
“I think this is a mistaken, inconceivable resolution,” Renzi said. “It is not possible to continue with these resolutions at the UN and UNESCO that aim to attack Israel. It is shocking and I have ordered that we stop taking this position (i.e, the abstention) even if it means diverging from the position taken by the rest of Europe. I have asked diplomats handling these issues to cease doing so.”
Renzi added: “If anyone wants to say something about Israel, let them say it, but they shouldn’t use UNESCO To say that the Jews have no links to Jerusalem is like saying the sun creates darkness.”
A senior official in Jerusalem said Renzi’s remarks follow strenuous protests by the Israeli embassy in Rome, headed by Ambassador Ofer Zaks, and the Jewish community in Italy. Since the vote last week the Jewish community had demonstrated against the Italian position in its UNESCO vote, and senior members of the community have published articles and public letters in the press.
“Renzi’s reaction shows he understands the significance of historic truth and the attempt that has been made to erase a part of the history of Judaism and Christianity in Jerusalem,” the official said.
Italy is the third country to notify of a change in position since the vote, against the backdrop of protests by Israel and Jewish communities. A few days ago Mexico considered triggering a special clause in UNESCO’s charter to hold another vote on the resolution, so it could change its position from support to abstention.
In the end, the Mexican government decided to suffice with a statement that it does not support the resolution because its wording is offensive and imbalanced toward the Jewish people and its historic connection to Jerusalem.
The Mexican foreign ministry has also said it has launched an internal investigation to examine why Mexico’s UNESCO representatives voted in favor of the resolution while the Mexican president’s position was to abstain.
The government of Brazil, which voted in favor of the resolution, also said afterward that it would change its position. Brazilian representatives at UNESCO said they were dissatisfied with the wording despite the revisions made and that they would have difficulty supporting such a resolution in the future.
The Foreign Ministry in Brasilia made the same statement in April after its envoy voted in favor of a similar resolution, but that did not prevent Brazil from voting in favor last week.