A general view of Jerusalem shows the Dome of the Rock.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REURERS)
Israel should delay its planned December exit from UNESCO given the positive steps the organization has taken to reform its anti-Israel bias, Ambassador Carmel Shama Hacohen told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“I was the first to recommend leaving the organization after the United States announced it would depart,” he said. “But now Israel shouldn’t ignore the new spirit that is blowing in its direction from UNESCO.
“Together with the US, we should reevaluate the question of leaving or at least weigh the possibility of a certain delay so we send a positive signal to all involved.
“As long as the politics and the obsessive pursuit of Israel remains in the past, Israel has an interest in engaging positively with other nations in the world, especially with our neighbors on the issues of education and science.”
Shama Hacohen made his comments to reporters from Paris, as UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee began its annual meeting in Bahrain this week. The meeting ends on July 4.
Last year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominated the headlines at the Krakow World Heritage Committee
meeting. The group inscribed Hebron’s Old Town and the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the Palestinian Authority, and disavowed Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
In the last four years, UNESCO has been one of Israel’s most intense battle grounds with regard to anti-Israeli bias at the UN.
The Palestinians in that time pushed forward a series of resolutions, particularly at UNESCO’s Executive Board, designed to promote a Muslim-only narrative with regard to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, which is also known as al-Haram al-Sharif.
To protest that bias, the United States announced last year that it planned to withdraw from the organization at the end of 2018. Israel followed suit and said it would leave with the US.
But the tide turned after that move, and UNESCO began to delay votes on what had become known as the “Jerusalem resolution.”
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay took further steps to put a damper on such activity.
As a result, no votes have been taken on such resolutions in a year, Shama Hacohen said, crediting Israeli diplomatic efforts.
“Since the Krakow conference, we have had a quiet year,” he said. “It’s a dramatic change. [UNESCO], which was the most active international organization against Israel, has become its quietest arena.”
As part of that shift, the World Heritage Committee delayed votes on Jerusalem and Hebron until next year.
“The consensus at the #WHC on the Middle East resolutions is a win-win situation,” Azoulay said on Twitter.
She added that UNESCO could play a facilitator role thanks to the “commitment of Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian delegations. It opens the way to less political tensions and more work on the ground.”