Published On: Thu, Oct 13th, 2016

Jerusalem asks Holy See for help with UNESCO vote on Jerusalem

As the UN body's executive board is expected to pass a resolution denying any Jewish connection to Jerusalem, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has asked the Holy See for assistance, arguing that the Christian connection is also being ignored.



In an unusual move, Israel has sought the Holy See’s help in forestalling UNESCO’s adopting a Palestinian recommendation to deny any Jewish affiliation with Jerusalem and the Temple Mount Thursday afternoon, arguing that it will also harm Christians.

The Palestinians have demanded that an international delegation experts be sent to the holy sites to examine what they have described as the destruction of historical and archeological heritage by Israel. They allege that this has been carried out in a variety of manners, including the building of the Jerusalem light rail and archeological excavations.

Israel, along with the United States, has been working in recent weeks to reduce the majority support within UNESCO’s executive board. France, which supported the Palestinians in April, has promised to vote against this proposal.

The Palestinians are seeking, inter alia, to appoint a UNESCO permanent observer in Jerusalem and to appoint a series of condemnations of Israeli activities, such as the alleged demolition of a school in Kfar Adumim. (Israel claims that it was a dilapidated caravan that was destroyed and not a school.”

The Holy See holds non-voting observer status at UNESCO, though its head of delegation, Msgr. Francesco Follo, is a part of the behind-the-scenes dynamics. Israel has tried to convince the Catholic delegation that the Palestinians are working to disregard not just the Jewish connection to Israel’s capital, but also the Christian connection.

Israeli Ambassador Designate to the Holy See, Oren David, contacted the Vatican’s Under-Secretary for Relations with States Antoine Camilleri on the matter and asked the Holy See to work to convince the UNESCO member states not to support the Palestinian initiative.

Israel’s permanent delegate to UNESCO, Amb. Carmel Shama Hacohen, commented, “Israel and the Jewish people don’t require UNESCO’s or any other country’s confirmation of the special connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel and Jerusalem in general and the holy sites therein like the Western Wall and the Temple Mount in particular.”

The ambassador continued, “There is no connection of another people to another place in the world that comes close to the strength and depth of our connection to Jerusalem from a religious, historical and national perspective, a connection that has stood the test of 2, 000 years.”

President Reuven Rivlin commented on Thursday morning, “There is no festival more connected to Jerusalem than Sukkot. The festivals of Israel all highlight the inextricable bond between our people and our land, and no forum or body in the world can come and deny the connection between the Jewish people, the Land of Israel and Jerusalem—and any such body that does so simply embarrasses itself.” Rivlin added, “We can understand criticism, but you cannot change history”.

Shama Hacohen conceded that the Palestinians enjoy an automatic majority of support and explained that his goal was to expand as much as possible the number of those opposed. “We are mobilizing to erode and drive a wedge in the automatic majority that has stood against us for the past two years, ” he explained. “The efforts are indeed bearing fruit: From the situation we were in when only the USA voted for us alone, we’ve gradually increased the number to six countries and also increased the number of abstainers.

US Permanent Delegate to UNESCO Amb. Crystal Nix-Hines has explained in the past to UNESCO’s executive board that unilateral decisions on the Middle East have made it harder for the American administration to resume paying its UNESCO membership fees. Shama Hacohen explained that the US Congress has blocked President Barack Obama’s efforts to resume the payments, some €80 million per annum, as both the Republicans and Democrats have opposed UNESCO’s decisions regarding Jerusalem.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released a pamphlet of the historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem, which has been distributed to all 120 permanent delegates to UNESCO whose countries have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Ynet News

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