PA officials pleased with UNESCO resolution

PA officials welcome UNESCO resolution denying Jewish connection to Jerusalem, say it sends a message to Israel to "end the occupation".

Elad Benari ,

UNESCO headquarters in Paris
UNESCO headquarters in Paris

Officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA) welcomed on Thursday the passing of a resolution by the UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO, denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Nabil Abu-Rudeineh, spokesman for PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, told Haaretz that the passage of the resolution requires the United States to engage in soul-searching and reexamine its backing for Israel.

"There is also a clear message here to Israel that it must end the occupation and recognize a Palestinian state with [eastern] Jerusalem as its capital," he said. Israel must recognize the city's sites that are holy to Islam and Christianity "and bring about an end to a policy that is poisoning the atmosphere" and has "implications on the entire region," he added.

A separate statement from the PA’s Foreign Ministry quoted by Haaretz expressed regret that "[a] few countries succumbed to the PR bullying orchestrated by Israel, which shifted the focus from Israel's illegal and colonial actions in occupied East Jerusalem to issues irrelevant to the content and objectives of the resolutions."

Israel, the statement continued, must "understand that the only way to be treated like a normal state is if it starts acting like one, by ending its occupation of Palestine."

The resolution was supported by 24 states, including Russia and China. 6 countries opposed and 26 abstained.

The resolution maintains that the Western Wall and Temple Mount will be referred to by their Arabic names and the Hebrew terms for the sites will only appear in quotation marks in UN references.

Israeli officials blasted the resolution, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu saying, "The UNESCO theater show goes on. Today it took a ridiculous decision denying the connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall.

"It's like saying that the Chinese have no connection to the Great Wall of China and the Egyptians have no connection to the pyramids," added Netanyahu.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein also spoke out against the UN, saying that the UN is "disconnected from reality and history."

MKs from the Zionist Union criticized UNESCO for the decision as well.

MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin called the resolution an "not just an anti-Israel decision but also an anti-Semitic decision which demonstrates how much this organization is intent on fighting Israel and Judaism far more than on dedicating itself to education, culture and science which it is supposed to be promoting."

MK Tzipi Livni sent a letter to UNESCO and to the director of the organization in which she expressed concern that the decision could lead to an escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict.

"UNESCO's job is to preserve the heritage of the past and not to distort the future. Even if I have political differences with the government, there is no place for politics over the authentic historic connection of the Jewish people to Temple Mount and the Western Wall," said Livni.

She added that "We have a joint responsibility to prevent the national conflict from deteriorating into a religious conflict - and this decision could cause just that."