Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday recalled Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO in protest of two recent resolutions by the UN cultural body that ignored Jewish and Christian historical ties to Jerusalem holy sites.
“The theater of the absurd continues, and I have decided to summon to Israel for consultations our ambassador to UNESCO,” said Netanyahu at an event in the coastal city of Herzliya. “We will decide what do, what our next steps vis-à-vis the organization will be.”
“This is a necessary step,” ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen said of the move. “The motive is the need to rethink and reevaluate our relations with UNESCO given the persistent persecution of Israel and the Jewish people.”
A second UNESCO resolution, approved Wednesday, echoed last week’s decision in referring to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defined it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship.” It also accused Israel of various violations at the holy site.
Out of 21 member states on the UN body’s Heritage Committee, 10 voted in favor of the resolution, two against and eight abstained. One was absent.
Netanyahu said late Tuesday night that while “extremist Muslim forces are destroying mosques and churches, Israel is the only country in the region that protects them and allows freedom of worship.”
But on Wednesday, following the second vote, the prime minister painted it as a diplomatic triumph for Israel, noting that fewer countries supported the resolution than in the past and more abstained.
But other Israeli officials responded furiously to the second vote.
“This is yet another absurd resolution against the State of Israel, the Jewish people and historical truth,” Shama-Hacohen said after the vote. He lifted a black dustbin with the word “History” on it and placed a copy of the resolution inside.
Shama-Hacohen and the heads of two Israeli advocacy groups, StandWithUs and the International Legal Forum, had submitted a petition signed by more than 77,000 Jews and Christians calling on UNESCO “to recognize the irrefutable deep historic, cultural and religious connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.”