Italy first EU country to publicly reject UNESCO’s anti-Israel resolution

Late this afternoon, while Israelis celebrate Independence Day, UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board is set to approve the text.

May 2, 2017 13:57
2 minute read.

Israel's envoy to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen puts the resolution on Jerusalem in the trashbin of history. (photo credit: EREZ LICHTFELD / PERMANENT MISSION OF ISRAEL TO THE UN)

Italy on Tuesday became the first European state to publicly state that it planned to reject a Palestinian backed resolution disavowing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Late this afternoon, while Israelis celebrate Independence Day, UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board is set to approve the text.

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Israeli and Palestinians, however, have battled for the support of the 11 EU member states on the board, whom they believe lend extra credibility to the final results of the vote at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

It’s presumed that the US will oppose the resolution.

Italy, which abstained from last years anti-Israel resolution at UNESCO, had promised Israel that in the future it would change its stance, including during a March visit of Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano.

On Tuesday he kept his pledge. He said he had instructed Italy’s UNESCO representative to vote “no” against “another politicized resolution on Jerusalem.”

“Our opinion is very clear,” he added. “UNESCO cannot be the place for a permanent ideological confrontation.”

At the annual youth Bible Quiz in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “There is no nation in the world for whom Jerusalem is more holy, than for the Jewish people.”

“UNESCO is trying to bury this truth. We will uphold it,” Netanyahu pledged.

Italy’s statement appears to dash Germany’s drive for a common EU position on the resolution. Diplomats have suggested that Germany sought to sway the EU states to abstain from the resolution or to support it.

Last year, Germany was one of five EU countries, that opposed the measure.

At issue is a text that states: “All legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and must be rescinded forthwith.”

The vague nature of the language could mean that the text refers to the issue of Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

Israel is concerned both by the language of the text and the public relations aspect of a UNESCO board disavowing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem on the country’s Independence Day.

On Monday Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the resolution “absurd.”

“We have become used to the concept of 'fake news'. Well, welcome to 'fake history,” Hotovely said.

UNESCO, she charged, “has long been politicized and unfortunately has become a tool in the service of Palestinian propaganda against Israel.”

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has accused Israel of inciting against the Palestinians at UNESCO, adding that it had swayed the the US to stand behind such efforts.

He warned Israel that it would fail to halt Palestinian resolutions at UNESCO unless it “ended the occupation.”

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