By Tovah Lazaroff, JPost—
Israel is pushing to sway the 21 nations on UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to reject a resolution disavowing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, when the committee meets in Krakow, Poland, July 2-12.
The diplomatic battle comes at the same time Israel is dealing with the American Jewish community over the centrality of the Western Wall as a global Jewish symbol.
Diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post, however, that they did not believe American Jewry’s anger over the cancellation of an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall would distract Israel in its campaign for UNESCO recognition of the Jewish and Israeli connection to Jerusalem.
Jordan submitted a resolution on Jerusalem on Monday that calls to rescind “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.” This includes the basic law on Jerusalem, the resolution states.
Earlier this year, UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board passed a similar resolution.
Both resolutions backed away from a two-year campaign by Arab states to refer solely to Judaism’s holiest sites – the Temple Mount and the Western Wall – solely by their Muslim names. In 2015 and 2016 resolutions, those sites were referred to as Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Buraq Wall.
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Shama HaCohen, said that while the resolution had been watered down, “we’re not distinguishing between the texts.” It is a bad resolution designed solely to obsessively “pursue and persecute” Israel, he said.
“We’re explaining to all the nations that no matter how hard you try to persuade a person that it’s better to be an oven set to 100 degrees rather than 1,000 degrees, that person would prefer to be at room temperature,” he said.
Israel doesn’t want softer language – it wants the resolutions to end, she added.
The World Heritage Committee debates these resolutions on a yearly basis since 1982, when Jerusalem’s Old City and its sites were inscribed under Jordan on the World Heritage List in Danger.
That inscription must be reaffirmed on a yearly basis until such time as the site is no longer classified as endangered.
Israel is now worried that similar annual anti-Israel resolutions will stem from the Palestinian Authority’s bid this year to inscribe the Old City of Hebron, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs, under “Palestine” on the World Heritage List in Danger.
Since UNESCO recognized “Palestine” as a member state in 2011, it has inscribed the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the ancient terraces of Battir under its name.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely spoke with foreign ambassadors based in Israel about the pending Hebron vote, and warned that “Jewish sites are being Islamized.”