The Palestinian Authority on Thursday hailed a resolution passed by the United Nations’ cultural arm that ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem, saying the motion was in essence a call to end Israel’s “illegal and colonial actions.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) resolution was adopted at the committee stage. The Executive Board of UNESCO is set to consider, and almost certainly approve, the resolution next week. Twenty-four UNESCO member states backed the resolution, while six voted against and 26 abstained at the vote held in Paris.
The resolution uses only Muslim names for the holy sites and is harshly critical of Israel for what it termed “provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity” of the area.
The PA’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the resolution, along with another one condemning Israel for allegedly destroying Palestinian educational institutes in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, reflects “the continued commitment of the majority of member states to confront impunity and uphold the principles upon which UNESCO was founded.”
“Palestine will continue to defend the rights of our people through all available legal and diplomatic avenues, including UN organizations. Our peaceful agenda will not be derailed by propaganda, nor will our tolerance and adherence to international law be altered by fallacies and cynical spin,” the statement said.
A spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas also said Thursday that the vote sends a “clear message” from the international community to the US regarding its stance on Israel.
“[It’s] a clear message that the international community does not agree with the policy that protects the occupation and contributes to creating chaos and instability,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, according to the Palestinian Authority’s official news outlet Wafa.
Abu Rudeineh said the result of the vote also shows the need for the US to “review its mistaken policy represented by its encouragement for Israel to continue its occupation of Palestinian land.”
He called the resolution an “important” message to Israel to recognize a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to end its policies “that contribute to the negative atmosphere in the region.”
The resolution begins by affirming the “importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” but then goes on to accuse Israel — which it consistently calls “the occupying power” — of a long list of wrongdoings.
It also decries Israeli works in the Western Wall Plaza, which it terms the al-Buraq plaza — the Muslim name for the site.
The Western Wall — built during the Second Temple period — is the outer retaining wall of the Temple Mount and is the holiest site where Jews today can pray. It is situated at the bottom of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest spot, the site of the Biblical temples.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, regarded by Muslims as the third-holiest site in Islam, sits atop the Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, along with the Dome of the Rock.
While Jews are allowed to enter the site, they cannot worship there under arrangements instituted by Israel when it captured the area from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. The Temple Mount compound has been a repeated flash-point for clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces.
The PA said it regretted that “a few countries succumbed to the PR bullying orchestrated by Israel, which shifted the focus from Israel’s illegal and colonial actions in occupied East Jerusalem to issues irrelevant to the content and objectives of the resolutions, which aims to put an end to Israel’s dangerous and illegal actions against holy sites in Jerusalem and Palestinian rights, including the right to worship.”
It added: “This is especially regrettable since those member states are well aware of the dangerous situation in Jerusalem.”
Israeli lawmakers on both the left and the right of the political spectrum furiously slammed the resolution. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision “absurd,” while President Reuven Rivlin branded it an “embarrassment” for UNESCO.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of the center-left Zionist Union accused UNESCO of betraying its mission. “Whoever wants to rewrite history, to distort fact, and to completely invent the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people, is telling a terrible lie that only serves to increase hatred,” he said.