Jerusalem satisfied as UNESCO anti-Israel decisions start to slow

Israel and the US are slated to pull out of the UN’s cultural and education body at the end of the year.

A general view of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (photo credit: REUTERS)
A general view of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UNESCO’s steady march of usurping Jewish and biblical sites and making them “Palestinian” slowed at its executive board meeting in Paris on Thursday, as no new condemnations of Israel were passed and only a relatively harmless three-point resolution under the headline “Occupied Palestine” was approved.
The resolution includes a one-and-a-half page annex that refers to UNESCO’s prior decisions on Israel and “Palestine,” and also a decision to include this agenda on UNESCO’s 250th session, to be convened next November.
The annex reaffirms previous UNESCO decisions regarding Jerusalem, but adds little that is new.
The mild move, agreed upon by a consensus after a couple of weeks of indirect negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, was applauded by Israel’s ambassador Carmel Shama Hacohen.
Israel and the US are slated to pull out of the UN’s cultural and education body at the end of the year because of its previous anti-Israel resolutions.
Shama Hacohen, however, said that Israel is very pleased by the latest outcome, and thanked the organization’s new director-general Audrey Azoulay – as well as the American team at UNESCO – for their efforts in brokering it.
“This is a very positive step. I am not sure if Israel would have decided to leave the organization had such efforts and resolutions been adopted in past years,” Shama Hacohen said.
Diplomatic sources said that with the American administration working on its peace plan and with the upcoming move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Israel preferred a negotiated consensus UNESCO resolution, instead of facing a diplomatic crisis once again over the issue.
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Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who closely monitors UNESCO’s action on Israel, said that both camps can consider the decision as a victory.
“Instead of having the anti-Israeli wordings in the resolution-body itself, these statements were grouped into an annex; a sort of an exterior box,” Samuels said. “Legally speaking, one can debate whether the annex is part of the resolution or not. It is a way for both sides to present an achievement.”
Azoulay, who is seeking to depoliticize the agency, told The Jerusalem Post that she considers the resolution “a beginning.”
According to Azoulay, the Israeli and Palestinian missions to UNESCO “have started communication indirectly, which was not the case before. This dialogue is a very positive sign.” She voiced hope that this consensus resolution would enable more dialogue between the sides in the near future. She also emphasized that “Israel has its place here, and much to contribute to UNESCO.”
Shama Hacohen said: “This resolution opened a door. We have always favored dialogue, and never backed away from any discussion, as others did. Mrs. Azoulay told us that she intends to leverage this positive atmosphere for further dialogue. Will this affect Israel’s decision to quit UNESCO? That’s too early to say. We must see what happens at the UNESCO Heritage Committee and later on the next executive board meeting. For the moment, our decision [to leave] is in place. Be that as it may, I believe that today’s resolution will benefit UNESCO’s image and ability to work, and this in itself is very good.’’
Samuels said last month at a conference in Jerusalem that at the next meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, in Bahrain in July, the Palestinians are likely to seek “cultural ownership” of the Qumran Caves and the Dead Sea Scrolls.