Israel to complete east Jerusalem center after controversial UNESCO vote

Netanyahu announces plans in the aftermath of two votes the World Heritage Committee took last week in Krakow, Poland.

An artist's rendering of the Kedem Center. (photo credit: CITY OF DAVID)
An artist's rendering of the Kedem Center.
(photo credit: CITY OF DAVID)
Israel plans to complete construction of the Kedem Center for tourists in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood just outside the Old City’s Dung Gate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
“Today I have instructed that procedures be completed for the construction of the Kedem Center for displaying the historical and archaeological findings for the City of David,” Netanyahu said. “This will be an impressive structure with extensive displays.”
The prime minister spoke in the aftermath of two votes taken by World Heritage Committee last week in Krakow, Poland. The first disavowed Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem; the second inscribed the Tomb of the Patriarchs on the World Heritage in Danger list, under the “State of Palestine.”
UNESCO declares the Cave of the Patriarchs as Palestinian, angering Israel (Reuters)
To underscore Israel’s connection to Hebron, Netanyahu opened the weekly meeting by donning a black skullcap and reading the Biblical passage from Genesis that recounts Abraham’s purchase of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
He also spoke of completing the new visitor center that will be located on 16,000 square meters of land by the City of David as part of a larger project that will include a cable car and new access routes to the Western Wall.
According to the right-wing NGO Ir David Foundation, or Elad, which is building the center together with the Tourism Ministry, the project has remained stalled as it waits for Netanyahu to approve the plans.
Its spokeswoman said she presumed that in the aftermath of Netanyahu’s statement, he will sign the necessary approvals.
After that, Elad must still submit plans to the Jerusalem Municipality to receive a building permit, a move that could still take some time, she said.
The Left-wing NGO Ir Amim, which has opposed the project, said it would destroy the fabric of the Silwan community and undermine any efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city.
The projects paints new facts on the ground in advance of negotiations, said Ir Amim’s director of international advocacy Betty Herschman.
Netanyahu, on the other hand, has said the center will better highlight the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
“The entire world will see the truth and the first visitors whom I will invite there will be UNESCO and UN delegations,” he said.
With respect to Hebron, “The connection between the Jewish People and Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs is one of purchase and of history which may be without parallel in the history of peoples,” Netanyahu said.
“Of course this did not prevent the UNESCO World Heritage Committee last Friday from passing yet another delusional resolution which determined that the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the same Cave of Machpelah, is a Palestinian heritage site,” he said.
“In the wake of this resolution I decided to cut an additional one million dollars from Israel’s UN membership dues and transfer the funds to the establishment of The Museum of the Heritage of the Jewish People in Kiryat Arba and Hebron,” Netanyahu said.
“The money will also serve additional heritage initiatives related to Hebron. I trust you, Ze’ev, to submit a proper proposal on this matter,” Netanyahu added, referring to Jerusalem and Heritage Minister Ze’ev Elkin.