Thursday, May 4, 2017

Israel lambastes UNESCO for rejecting its sovereignty in Jerusalem - Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, Yori Yalon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, Yori Yalon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

U.N. cultural body passes resolution calling Israel an "occupying power" in Jerusalem with vote of 22 members in favor, 10 against and 23 abstaining • Israeli officials denounce vote as anti-Semitic • PM: Support for absurd decisions in UNESCO decreasing.

An Israeli flag flies near the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City
Photo credit: AP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday leveled scathing criticism at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for yet again passing an anti-Israeli resolution all but disavowing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Titled "Occupied Palestine," the resolution, submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, was carried with a vote of 22 member states in favor, 10 against it and 23 abstaining.

Tuesday's vote on the resolution, which refers to Israel as an "occupying power" in Jerusalem, coincided with the Jewish state's 69th Independence Day. Israel asserts that Jerusalem is its eternal capital, but most of the international community considers east Jerusalem, united with the western part of the city following the 1967 Six-Day War, as "occupied territory." 

While the resolution affirmed the importance of the Old City and its walls to the three monotheistic religions, the U.N.'s cultural agency called on Israel to cease "persistent excavations, tunneling, works and projects" in east Jerusalem, particularly the Old City, which is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. 
The resolution said Israel had taken actions that have "altered, or purport to alter, the character and status of the Holy City." Such activities by an occupying power are illegal under international law, it said. 
"The absurd decisions in UNESCO have to not merely be reduced in the number of their supporters. That's happening, I'm glad to say, went down from 32 to 26, today to 22. There are more countries today that are abstaining or supporting Israel than there are those opposing Israel. But my goal is to have no votes in UNESCO on Israel," Netanyahu said, speaking at an Independence Day reception for foreign diplomats.
"Last year UNESCO said that the Jewish people have no connection to the Temple Mount. Can you imagine? ... This year they didn't say that. That's an improvement in the march of absurdity. They also said that Judaism too has connection to Jerusalem. We're making progress. But there's still a way to go and the way we have to go is in fact to cut out this nonsense.
"One hundred U.S. senators, 100, every single one of them, Democrats and Republicans and I guess there are some independents there, too, every single one of them wrote to the secretary general of the United Nations and said, 'Enough!' The theater of the absurd, when it comes to Israel, has to stop. So there is a gap still between our expanding, growing bilateral relations and our multilateral diplomacy. It's true the gap is being reduced from year to year, but if I could express a wish to you: I want it eliminated, as I want you to cut your travel time, as the [Israeli] president suggested. Move your embassies to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel for 3,000 years," Netanyahu said. 
The prime minister noted that he often hears from world leaders that "Israel is a role model for the entire world," adding that "perhaps most remarkably, from Arab leaders I hear an increasing recognition that Israel is not an enemy but an indispensable ally in the common battle against terror and the common effort to secure a different future, a better future for all the peoples of the Middle East.
"We're not perfect, I don't know which country is, and we always strive to improve. Israel is a moral nation which from its first day has tirelessly pursued peace with all our neighbors. And we can do a great deal of good in moving towards this not only with our neighbors but with every one of you."
Later, speaking at the International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said, "There is no other people in the world for whom Jerusalem is as holy and important as for the Jewish people." 
UNESCO, he said, was "trying to deny this simple truth."

'Resolution anti-Semitic'
UNESCO's resolution was widely criticized by Israeli officials.
President Reuven Rivlin touched on the issue during an Independence Day event he hosted on Jerusalem, saying, "Most of you are younger than me, you were born into a reality in which Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, you do not know any different reality. Since the days of King David there has been no other reality. The time has come to end this absurdity. The time has come to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of the State of Israel. De facto, not just de jure. The time has come to officially transfer all embassies to Jerusalem."
Israeli Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama Hacohen condemned the resolution, saying, "Such proposals have no place in the family of nations, let alone in UNESCO. Voting against a country as it marks its Independence Day is a new low by Arab states."
Shama Hacohen noted the "significant diplomatic achievement" that had saw support for Israel in UNESCO double, to include African, South American and East European nations among the 58-member body.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the resolution as "a disgrace."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) said, "The answer to UNESCO's resolution and to anyone who doubts our right to Jerusalem is to pass the greater Jerusalem bill, which advocates for the expansion of Jerusalem's [municipal] borders and bolsters the Jewish majority there."
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) noted that "the competition between UNESCO and the [U.N.] Human Rights Council in terms of anti-Israeli resolutions is making them pursue increasingly ridiculous decisions."
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said, "UNESCO's predictable political decision only harms the relevance of the organization, which is supposed to preserve heritage and culture, but fails in its role time and again when it comes to Israel."
Deputy Minister Michael Oren (Kulanu) called the decision "despicable."
Opposition Leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) called the resolution "an anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli disgrace that falsifies the history of the Jewish people and its unshakable link to eternal Jerusalem. This is a miserable resolution, devoid of any status and validity that will find its way into the dustbin of history."
Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid called the resolution "unfounded and anti-Semitic. No one, not even UNESCO, can rewrite Jewish history, certainly not on the day when Israel celebrates 69 years of independence as a strong and democratic state."
The United States also criticized the resolution. A spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Washington "rejects the adoption of these anti-Israel resolutions at UNESCO. Like other parts of the U.N. system, UNESCO is too often used as a vehicle by member states inclined to deride and delegitimize the State of Israel.
"Although several of these anti-Israel resolutions are typically adopted biannually at UNESCO, over time they have become increasingly political in nature, and now attempt to deny the historic connections of the Jewish people to the holy sites of Jerusalem. These biased resolutions are counterproductive to the core work of UNESCO, discredit the organization, and do nothing to advance Israeli-Palestinian issues. There is no place for them in an organization that is meant to be impartial," the official said.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said he had instructed the country's representative at UNESCO to vote against what he called "the latest politicized resolution on Jerusalem."
"Our opinion is very clear: UNESCO can't become the headquarters of a permanent ideological clash in which questions are faced for which the solutions are supposed to be handled in other headquarters," Alfano was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.

Elias Wadih Sanbar, the Palestinian ambassador to UNESCO, said Tuesday's resolution was part of efforts to "stop giving a kind of blank check to an occupier that is acting with total illegality and impunity."

Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, Yori Yalon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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