UNESCO to decide on Palestine resolution opposed by Israel

The U.N. cultural agency will consider a resolution Tuesday on the occupied Palestinian territories which Israel believes ignores Jewish ties to religious sites in occupied east Jerusalem.

Israel has suspended its cooperation with Paris-based UNESCO, which oversees World Heritage sites, over the controversial resolution which was proposed by Arab countries.

It refers to “Occupied Palestine” and is critical of Israel’s management of Palestinian religious sites, but it is the names used to describe key sites that appear to have infuriated Israel the most.

It refers to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem’s Old City — Islam’s third holiest site — only by its Muslim name. The site is known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

Last Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained that saying “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.”

A second, less contentious, resolution also to be decided Tuesday deals with Gaza.

It is not the first time UNESCO has been the scene of tensions. Arab countries have sought to use the organisation to apply international pressure on Israel and its backers before.

In April, it passed a resolution condemning “Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque”, also failing to mention the site’s Jewish name of the Temple Mount.

That led Netanyahu to propose a “seminar on Jewish history” for U.N. staff in Israel.

In 2011 the Palestinians were admitted as a member state of the organisation, which led the United States to suspend its payments to UNESCO.

The latest resolutions created unease at the top of the organisation, with Michael Worbs, who chairs UNESCO’s executive board, saying he would have liked more time to work out a compromise.

“We need more time and dialogue between the members of the board to reach a consensus,” he told AFP.

A UNESCO official said the organisation had received threatening calls and messages on social media over the resolution dealing with east Jerusalem.

Source: National News Agency.