Daily Israel Report

PA to UNESCO: Bethlehem's Church of Nativity in 'Palestine'

The Palestinian Authority is making a bid to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as located in the “country of Palestine.”
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 6/13/2012, 11:14 AM

Tourists in the Nativity Church
Tourists in the Nativity Church
Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority is making a bid to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as located in the “country of Palestine.”

The issue arose with the question of whether to approve the registration of the church with the World Heritage Committee at its upcoming meeting in Russia, set for June 24 to July 6.

The Church was submitted under an emergency provision for endangered sites, and is among 36 such places under consideration for registration as a World Heritage site.

Israel did not dispute the worthiness of the Church as a potential site on the List, but rather laments the PA's politicization of the cultural and historical process, said a government official in response.

On the UNESCO web site, one finds a report in which the International Council on Monuments and Sites comments that it “does not consider that the property can be considered to have been severely damaged or to be under imminent threat.” Therefore, the recommendation adds,  the application by the PA does not merit immediate action by the World Heritage Committee “that is necessary for the survival of the property” – ergo, the church will not make it to the List at least this time around.

This is the first time the committee has even considered registering any World Heritage site under the PA as a “country.” The only reason it has done so now came as a result of last October's vote by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that recognized “Palestine” as a member state.

The vote followed an attempt by the Palestine Liberation Organization -- which enjoys observer status at the United Nations -- to unilaterally win full membership for the Palestinian Authority as an independent, sovereign nation.

The ploy, led by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and which was intended to circumvent final status negotiations with the State of Israel, failed. Nevertheless, diplomatic gains were won, such as the UNESCO vote which now allows the PA full state rights in all UNESCO bodies -- such as registering sites on the World Heritage List.