UNESCO’s executive board is expected on Tuesday to ratify last week’s resolution ignoring Jewish ties to the Temple Mount after the Arab group of UNESCO member states, led by Morocco, blocked Israel’s attempt to delay the vote, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.
Two countries friendly to Israel were expected to ask executive board chairman Michael Worbs to move the vote to another date in light of the uproar that had been caused by Thursday’s preliminary vote, diplomatic sources said on Monday.
It was expected that Worbs would agree, they added.
Worbs had given a number of interviews to the media in which he apologized for the vote and expressed his disappointment in it.
In particular, he wanted to see a text approved that had the consensus of all 58 executive board members. He was unhappy that the vote was divided, passing on Thursday with 24 member states supporting the measure, 26 abstaining. Two member states were absent during the vote.
Only six nations, including the United States, voted to oppose the resolution.
Worbs told the media that he would prefer to bring a consensus text to the executive board for ratification. But on Monday, under pressure from the Arab group, he removed himself from the debate and that part of the meeting, will be handled by one of his deputies, diplomatic sources said.
While it is still possible that an Israel-friendly country could call for a delay, it seemed unlikely, because Worbs’s deputy is not expected to approve the request.
The Jerusalem resolution – like all resolutions given preliminary approval – are approved globally by the executive board on the last days of its session, but a member state can ask for a roll-call vote or debate and a roll-call vote on any resolution. Member states can also change their votes at that time.
The executive board is expected to approve the resolutions on Tuesday morning as it wraps up its session in Paris that began on October 4.
Almost immediately after the vote, Israel’s mission to UNESCO in Paris began working to thwart another Jerusalem resolution that is due to come before the 21-member World Heritage Committee on October 26.
While the text is different, the essential problem in the executive board resolution remains in the World Heritage version. The text that will be placed before the World Heritage Committee will likely refer to Judaism’s most holy site, the Temple Mount and its adjacent Western Wall, almost solely by their Muslim names.
Since 2015 the Palestinian delegation led a drive at UNESCO to erase the term Temple Mount from resolutions submitted to the organization.
Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen, who is leading Israel’s efforts in Paris to halt this campaign, said he expects that this issue will come up every time a resolution on Jerusalem is brought to UNESCO.
“We’re in for a prolonged battle,” Shama-Hacohen said, but added his belief that in the end, “Israel will prevail. These resolutions tarnish UNESCO’s professional reputation,” and member states are losing their patience with them.”
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova strongly condemned last week’s resolution and spoke of the importance of honoring the long religious and historical connection all three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have to the site.
Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has also spoken out against such resolutions.
According to his spokesman, “The secretary-general reiterates that any perceived undertaking to repudiate the undeniable common reference for these sites does not save the interests of peace and will only feed violence and radicalism. He also calls on all sides to uphold the status quo in relation to the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.”
Separately, Mexico’s Ambassador to UNESCO Andres Roemer, who is Jewish, threatened to quit over his country’s support for the executive board resolution on Thursday and had actually walked out of the meeting in protest.
Shama-Hacohen wrote him a letter urging him to remain in his position, stating that he would be a great asset to Mexico and a friend to Israel if he remained in his position.