Storm warning

UNESCO is not the first to try to erase Jewish links to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem  (photo credit: JACK BROOK)
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem
(photo credit: JACK BROOK)
The same week that UNESCO voted to deny the historical fact of the Jewish people’s link to the site of its two ancient Temples, two more Jews were murdered by terrorists in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority announced a new push for statehood at the UN and a BDS group sought to lobby the US Congress. Is this cascade of challenges, as former senior US official Stuart Eizenstat termed events, more of the same reality Israel has been facing all along, or are we approaching some critical point?
None of the recent events cited above is new. In fact, they were predicted five years ago by then-defense minister Ehud Barak, who warned Israel would face a “diplomatic tsunami” if the standstill in Middle East peace talks continued.
He predicted a massive campaign to delegitimize Israel would ensue, years before the viral spread of BDS antisemitism on US college campuses or the delusional attempt to negate thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem.
It may be a sign of the approaching tsunami that we are not being allowed even to reduce some of the anticipated challenges, for example by following the High Court’s decision on Amona. Despite its ruling that the illegal outpost of Amona, built on privately owned Palestinian land, must finally be demolished by December 25, and notwithstanding the government’s attempt to find a solution by relocating Amona’s 40 families to the veteran settlement of Shiloh, the US State Department harshly condemned the plan.
The Foreign Ministry rejected the criticism, pointing out that “the 98 housing units approved in Shiloh do not constitute a ‘new settlement.’ This housing will be built on state land in the existing settlement of Shiloh and will not change its municipal boundary or geographic footprint.”
Nevertheless, the US is not budging.
So what is the government doing? It is now asking the High Court for a six-month extension to execute the ruling.
It is almost amusing to recall Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the UN General Assembly just a few weeks ago when he proudly declared that “Israel has a bright future at the UN.” After a week like this and considering the challenges ahead, it is difficult to describe Israel’s future as “bright.”
Following last week’s UNESCO vote, the Palestinians announced that they are sounding out members of the Security Council on the wording of a resolution demanding a halt to Israeli settlement building and on becoming a full member of the United Nations.
One new threat has emerged amid the Palestinian campaign for statehood, a new tactic of obfuscation in their ongoing war against Israel. While mouthing fidelity to the widely accepted concept of a two-state solution to the conflict, PA officials have been presenting this concept differently to different audiences.
Bar-Ilan University Prof. Eytan Gilboa, a former consultant to Netanyahu, told the 2016 National Israeli-American Conference in Washington that PA officials speak of “two states for two peoples” when addressing Western audiences, but leave out the words “for two peoples” when speaking in Arabic to other audiences.
“That’s because they do not accept the idea that the Jews are a national people with a right to national self-determination,” Gilboa said.
The attempt by UNESCO to sever Jerusalem’s holy places from the Jewish people is not the first tsunami warning we received, but is just the latest manifestation of the global epidemic of antisemitism and Israel-hatred that no longer knows bounds.
Israel should not fear this diplomatic tsunami or campaign of delegitimization. UNESCO is not the first to try to erase Jewish links to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
There were the Babylonians, the Greeks and then the Arab states which converged on Israel in 1948. They all failed.
Netanyahu can draw strength from David Ben-Gurion, who faced a diplomatic tsunami at the UN in December 1949, when the General Assembly voted (38-14, with seven abstentions) to uphold its 1947 resolution placing Jerusalem under the auspices of a UN Trusteeship Council.
But Ben-Gurion didn’t yield. He declared to the Knesset: “We cannot assist in the forcible separation of Jerusalem...The State of Israel has had, and will always have, only one capital – eternal Jerusalem. This was so 3,000 years ago and so it will be, we believe, to the end of time.”
Ben-Gurion then did something else. He moved the Knesset from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.