JERUSALEM // Israel suspended cooperation with Unesco on Friday after the UN cultural organisation adopted two resolutions on the occupied Palestinian territories including annexed east Jerusalem ahead of a final vote next week.
In a letter sent to Unesco director general Irina Bokova, education minister Naftali Bennett accused the body of ignoring “thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem” and aiding “Islamist terror.”
“I have notified the Israel National Commission for Unesco to suspend all professional activities with the international organisation,” he said.
The resolutions adopted at committee stage on Thursday refer to “Occupied Palestine” and the need to “safeguard the Palestinian cultural heritage and the distinctive character of east Jerusalem.” They refer to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem’s Old City — Islam’s third holiest site — without any reference to the site also being revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back swiftly. “To say Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and Western Wall is like saying China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or Egypt has no connection to the pyramids,” he said.
Ms Bokova distanced herself from the resolutions in a statement, saying “nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space.”
Bokova did not specifically mention the resolutions but said of the Temple Mount, “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible, and each of its communities has a right to the explicit recognition of their history and relationship with the city. To deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site, and runs counter to the reasons that justified its inscription on the Unesco World Heritage list.”
Participants said the two resolutions, which were put forward by Arab countries including Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria, were adopted by 24 votes to six with 26 abstentions and two absentees.
They are to be put to the Unesco Executive Board on Tuesday but in general it votes in line with the decisions taken by committees.
Washington has expressed its strong opposition.
“We are deeply concerned about these kinds of recurring politicised resolutions that do nothing to advance constructive results on the ground and we don’t believe they should be adopted,” said State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner.
The status of Jerusalem is the thorniest issue of the decades-long Palestinian conflict.
Israel captured east Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community, declaring the whole city its indivisible capital.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state.
* Agence France-Presse