Support for UNESCO Temple Mount resolution was ‘error,’ Brazil says
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Support for UNESCO Temple Mount resolution was ‘error,’ Brazil says

Under new leadership, country which voted for declaration denying Jewish link to holy site now admits text was 'partial and unbalanced'

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem, as seen from the Israeli Air Force's annual fly-by on Independence Day, May 12, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
The Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem, as seen from the Israeli Air Force's annual fly-by on Independence Day, May 12, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

Brazil has expressed regret over having supported a recent UNESCO resolution denying a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, admitting that the text was “partial and unbalanced,” and pledged to vote against future resolutions on the topic if its misgivings were not taken into account.

The move by Brasilia, following the election of a new, more Israel-friendly president, makes it the second country to seemingly try to take back its vote in the contentious April 15 resolution, after France similarly said its support for the measure was a mistake.

The United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization resolution on “Occupied Palestine” harshly criticized Israel for its actions in the Old City of Jerusalem, referring to the Temple Mount as “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif and its surroundings” while not mentioning the existence of Jewish holy sites there.

Thirty-three countries voted in favor, 17 abstained and six opposed. Israel publicly lashed France for supporting the resolution and, after Paris acknowledged the text’s biases, Prime Minister Benjamin exhorted France to call on other countries to similarly reject the resolution.

In a press release issued last week, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry stated that during the deliberations over the resolution last month it tried to “soften the terms of the original proposal” but, having failed to do so, eventually voted in favor.

“However, the fact that the decision does not make express reference to the historical ties of the Jewish people to Jerusalem, particularly to the Western Wall, the holiest shrine of Judaism, is an error, which makes the text partial and unbalanced.”

Brasilia, the statement continued, “reiterates its full recognition of these bonds and its position in favor of the free access of believers of the three religions, Christianism, Islamism and Judaism, to the holy sites of the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as its support for the existing agreements between Israel and Jordan on the administration of the city.”

The Brazilian government pledged to “review its vote if the deficiencies pointed out in the decision are not corrected in future assessment of the subject by UNESCO.”

Brazilian acting President Michel Temer is seen during the first ministers meeting at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on May 13, 2016. (EVARISTO SA / AFP)
Brazilian President Michel Temer (Evaristo Sa / AFP)

In recent months, bilateral relations between Jerusalem and Brasilia have been blemished by the ambassadorial appointment of former settler leader Dani Dayan as Israeli envoy. Brazil for months refused to accept Dayan until Israel finally withdrew his candidacy in late March.

Last month, the country voted in new president Michel Temer, who is expected to be friendlier toward Israel than his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff.

The UNESCO resolution had been submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan during UNESCO’s executive board meeting on April 11.

Among other things, it deplored the “continuous storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif by the Israeli right-wing extremists and uniformed forces, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to take necessary measures to prevent provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”

On April 16, Netanyahu issued an angry statement, accusing UNESCO of rewriting human history. “UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, in Jerusalem on Monday, May 23, 2016 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, in Jerusalem on Monday, May 23, 2016 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The prime minister also wrote a letter to French President Francois Hollande telling him of his “shock” to learn that Paris voted in favor of a resolution that denies Jewish people’s link to the Temple Mount. Netanyahu also brought up the issue in his May 15 meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

“He told me that this decision stemmed from a misunderstanding and that he would personally see to it that it does not recur,” the prime minister said.

On May 23, Netanyahu again raised the topic during a meeting with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. “I hope you encourage other nations that voted for this outrageous resolution to follow your lead and admit it was an error. And of course, the most important thing is that it doesn’t happen again,” Netanyahu told Valls.

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