Israel announced on Wednesday that it will be suspending its cooperation with The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), due to its decision to declare Rachel’s Tomb a mosque. The suspension will be in place until the organization reverses its decision
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who made the announcement regarding the suspension, said of the resolution by UNESCO: “This resolution was adopted by the Arab automatic majority, lead by the Palestinian Authority, in another attempt to de-legitimize Israel. UNESCO has become a rubber stamp for the PA.”
UNESCO’s recent vote called for Rachel's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs – the burial site of the other Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs – to be removed from Israel's National Heritage list.
The Palestinian Authority has claimed that Rachel's Tomb is holy to Muslims as the site of a mosque called the Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque. It demands control over both the tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron, as well as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
In response to the resolution, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement in which it said: “The attempt to detach the Nation of Israel from its heritage is absurd. If the nearly 4,000-year-old burial sites of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish Nation – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah – are not part of its culture and tradition, then what is a national cultural site?”
Wednesday’s decision to suspend cooperation with UNESCO was praised by several MKs, among whom was MK Othniel Schneller (Kadima), who initiated the discussion on UNESCO's decision. Schneller welcomed the announcement and said that “UNESCO's decision to declare Rachel's Tomb as a mosque is another hypocritical decision from the United Nations. The decision ignored historical fact and turned a political controversy into a religious dispute.”
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) called UNESCO’s decision “hypocritical and anti-Semitic” and said that “Islam is trying to rob the past and falsify history.”
Eldad added, however, that the Israeli governments “who neglected Rachel’s Tonb and the Cave of Machpelah and abandoned the Temple Mount also play a part in the fact that the most important National Heritage Sites are seen by the world as mosques.” He called on the Israeli government to declare the sites National Heritage Sites and invest in their development. Doing this, said Eldad, “will shut the mouths of those who try to rob Israel of its past.”