(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
France will never deny the “true, existing right” of Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a letter to Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz.
It was penned in response to an invitation by Rabinowitz for Valls to visit the Western Wall so that he could better understand its significance to the Jewish people and the freedom of worship that is allowed to Muslims and Christians in the Old City.
“If peace in the Holy Land is dear to your heart, then I am calling on you to stand by your word and to visit the Western Wall, which is at the foot of the Temple Mount,” Rabinowitz wrote to Valls. His office could not say whether Valls accepted the invitation.
The French prime minister last visited Israel in May, in advance of a ministerial meeting in Paris on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, frozen since April 2014.
Rabinowitz turned to Valls on the issue of Jerusalem, as Israel is in the midst of a diplomatic battle to stop the Untied Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s member states from erasing Jewish religious and historical ties to the Temple Mount.
UNESCO’s executive board voted, with France’s support, on a resolution in April which ignored Jewish ties to Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.
Instead the resolution’s text referred to the Temple Mount and its retaining Western Wall almost solely by its Muslim names.
Valls apologized for the vote after it happened and he reiterated those words in his letter to Rabinowitz, who released some quotes in Hebrew from the document to the media.
“The language of UNESCO’s decision was unfortunate and clumsy to the point of insult.
I believe that this should have been avoided and that the vote should not have happened,” Valls wrote. He told Rabinowitz that it is France’s long-standing belief that Jerusalem is holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
He added that France is working to renew the peace process. Its the absence of such a process that is fueling violence in Jerusalem, Valls told Rabinowitz.
“There is no doubt that the Jewish people was deeply hurt by this vote,” Rabinowitz wrote Valls earlier this month.
A similar resolution on Jerusalem is slated to come before UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee when it convents in Paris in the fall.