Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi Saturday, thanking him for his criticism of the UNESCO resolution last week that ignored Judaism’s ties to Jerusalem.
Renzi on Friday said the UN motion was “incomprehensible, unacceptable and wrong.”
Italy abstained during the October 13 vote, in line with other EU nations, but Renzi has characterized Italy’s vote as a mistake and told RTL radio that he would consider breaking EU unity in future votes of such a nature.
Netanyahu told Renzi that he believed self-respecting nations should not participate in such a “theater of the absurd,” government officials said, adding that the matter was “not a question of politics but of historic facts.”
Renzi for his part repeated to Netanyahu his statement to RTL that denying Judaism’s history in Jerusalem was similar to stating that “the sun emits darkness.”
He told the Israeli premier that he would seek to influence other European nations on such matters in future.
Renzi said Friday he has “specifically told the diplomats entrusted with these issues that this cannot continue: there is no denying reality.”
Ruth Dureghello, president of the Jewish community in Rome, praised Renzi’s comments, saying “It was unacceptable to us…to think that our government abstained facing a motion so blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-historical.”
The resolution, passed October 13 at the committee stage, referred to the Temple Mount and Western Wall only by their Muslim names and condemned Israel as “the occupying power” for various actions taken in both sites. It was ratified on October 18 by UNESCO’s Executive Board.
Beyond Israel’s anger over the resolution, it has also come under criticism by several foreign officials.
The head of UNESCO’s executive board, Michael Worbs, opposed the wording of the motion and urged further dialogue on the matter, though his calls went unheeded.
UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova said efforts to deny history and Jerusalem’s complex multi-faith character harmed UNESCO, adding that “The heritage of Jerusalem is indivisible.”
Mexico, which had originally voted in support of the resolution, changed to an abstainment at the Board meeting. Its ambassador to UNESCO Andres Roemer had walked out of the vote in protest of his country’s original vote, and was later fired for his actions.