Israeli politicians tear into UNESCO Jerusalem vote

“No faux ‘heritage committee’ can sever the bonds between our people and Jerusalem,” says Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon.

The Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem
With a minority approval, the 21-member World Heritage Committee passed a resolution on Tuesday that disavowed Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem during its annual meeting, which this year is held in Krakow, Poland.
“I would like to thank the countries who stood by our side today and have once again prevented a dishonorable consensus on an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish decision,” Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCohen said.
The Foreign Ministry added that the “sad, needless and pathetic” decision lacked a majority.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and no UNESCO decision can change that,” the Foreign Ministry said.
Ten countries approved the measure, but three opposed it and another eight abstained.
Last year, only two countries voted against a resolution on Jerusalem, which the World Heritage Committee annually passes when it reaffirms the inscription of the Old City and its walls on its endangered list under the state of Jordan.
This year the resolution stated that all “legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular, the “basic law” on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”
In 2016 the Jerusalem resolution vote was held by secret ballot. This year Lebanon and Cuba asked for a roll call that forced each country to publicly state its position.
The three countries that rejected the resolution were: Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Jamaica. In 2016, Jamaica was not in the room when the vote occurred.
The eight abstaining countries were: Angola, Croatia, Finland, Peru, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea and Tanzania.
Those who supported the measure were: Azerbaijan, Cuba, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UNESCO Carmel Shama Palestinian Ambassador Elias Sanbar welcomed the vote.
Jordan’s representative said it confirmed the resolution’s “legitimacy,” “the justice of our cause” and “the importance of the Holy City of Jerusalem, not only to the followers of the three monotheistic religions but to humanity as a whole.”
This decision “aims at preserving the historical and legal status of Jerusalem, which prevailed before the Israeli occupation of the Holy City in 1967,” he said.
“My delegation reaffirms that Al Kuds Al Sharif and its Islamic and Christian holy places are the first among the priorities of his Majesty King Abdullah II, in his capacity as the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem,” Jordan’s representative said.
The Philippines said that it supported “peace and constructive dialogue between all parties in the Middle East, based on a two-state solution.”
Indonesia called on Israel to allow a monitoring mission from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to visit Jerusalem’s Old City so it could evaluate the status of the site.
The United States, which is not a member of the World Heritage Committee, spoke against the resolution.
“These politicized and one sided resolutions are damaging to the credibility of UNESCO and greatly hinder the important work that this body is undertaking to safeguard and preserve our diverse world heritage.
“These politicized resolutions do not further the mandate and standing of UNESCO, worse we believe that actions such as this hinder and obstruct progress in the region,” the US said.
Israeli politicians were also quick to express their anger.
“Nothing is more disgraceful than UNESCO declaring the world’s only Jewish state the ‘occupier’ of the Western Wall and Jerusalem’s Old City," said Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon. "No faux ‘heritage committee’ can sever the bonds between our people and Jerusalem.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, "UNESCO's repeated fake claims do not change the Jewish connection to Jerusalem or reality on the ground." contributed to this report.