Israel slams EU revision to UNESCO Jerusalem proposal
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Israel slams EU revision to UNESCO Jerusalem proposal

Foreign Ministry ‘concerned’ over new draft, says it still challenges Jewish ties to Old City, Temple Mount

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

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)

A European Union revision to a controversial resolution by the UN’s cultural body on the Old City of Jerusalem had Israel “concerned” on Thursday, with the Foreign Ministry saying the new text still downplays Jewish historical ties to its holiest site.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem expressed “concern’ over the EU revision to the UNESCO resolution, which it said “nullifies the bond and relationship of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount.”

“The EU proposal still denies the connection of the Jewish people to the Temple Mount,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

The text of the proposal has not yet been released by the EU.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry singled out EU member France, which expressed remorse over its “yes” vote on an April UNESCO resolution that ignored Jewish ties to Jerusalem.

It also emphasized Jerusalem was still applying diplomatic pressure to quash the current version.

“Nothing is finished yet,” the ministry added.

The move came days after a joint Palestinian-Jordanian resolution on Jerusalem was shelved after failing to garner enough support. That proposal urged a return of the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to what it called “the historic status quo” following the 1967 Six Day War, under which the Jordanian Waqf religious authority had the right to administer all aspects of the sites “including maintenance, restoration, and regulating access.”

Israel has put pressure on UN members to reject that vote, including in a letter Monday by Foreign Ministry chief Dore Gold, and vocal complaints from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a previous UNESCO vote on Jerusalem in April.

The complex, which was the site of the two biblical temples, is Judaism’s holiest site. Muslims regard the compound — which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine — as the third-holiest site in Islam.

While Jews are allowed to enter the site, they are banned from worship under arrangements instituted by Israel when it captured the area from Jordan in 1967.

The site has been a focal point of violence wracking Israel and the West Bank over the past 10 months, amid claims by Palestinian leaders — vehemently denied by Israel — that the Israeli government plans to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Some 40 victims have been killed in Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks in the wave of violence since October.

Israeli police take cover as Palestinian protesters throw stones at them at Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound during clashes between Israeli police and Muslims for the third consecutive day on June 28, 2016 in Jerusalem's Old City. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli police take cover as Palestinian protesters throw stones at them at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound during clashes between Israeli police and Muslims for the third consecutive day on June 28, 2016 in Jerusalem’s Old City. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

A resolution adopted by UNESCO’s executive board in April enraged Israel for ignoring the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

The April resolution criticized Israel for “excavations and works” in East Jerusalem, and urged it to stop “aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access” to their holy site. The resolution also accused Israel of “planting fake Jewish graves in Muslim cemeteries” and of “the continued conversion of many Islamic and Byzantine remains into the so-called Jewish ritual baths or into Jewish prayer places.”

The April resolution was approved by 33 states of the 58-member body, including Russia, Spain, Sweden, France and Brazil.

Like France, Brazil said its vote a mistake.

Seventeen countries abstained while six voted against — the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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