Six Arab states are set to submit a proposal on behalf of the Palestinians to the UN’s cultural body to officially claim the Western Wall as part of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound (the Temple Mount), Israel’s Ynet news website reported Friday.
The proposal will be submitted in the coming days to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, by Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, Ynet said. The Palestinians are not members of the body’s executive council, and therefore rely on one of the 58 member states to submit the proposal.
Ynet quoted senior Israeli sources as saying that the Palestinians are also seeking to submit the proposal in parallel to the UNESCO plenum, where they are recognized as a state.
The proposal also calls for the international community to condemn Israel for urging “its citizens to bear arms in light of recent terror wave,” as well as recent actions by Israel and the IDF in Jerusalem. The document, a copy of which was obtained by Ynet, refers to Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of Palestine.”
In addition, the Palestinians seek condemnation of ongoing Israeli archaeological excavations near the Temple Mount and the Old City in Jerusalem, as well as for the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967.”
According to Ynet, Israel is trying to convince as many countries as possible to oppose the proposal, or abstain. However, the report said, the proposal will likely be approved as there is a Muslim and Arab majority on UNESCO’s executive council.
The Palestinians claim that Israel plans to change the status quo at the site, which is holy to Jews and Muslims but where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray. Israel has repeatedly denied the accusation, which has been a key factor in the ongoing violence.
Israel on Friday rejected Palestinian calls for an international force to be deployed in East Jerusalem to promote calm around the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Let me be crystal clear — Israel will not agree to any international presence on the Temple Mount. Such a presence would be a change in the status quo,” Israel’s Deputy Ambassador David Roet told the UN Security Council.
The 15-member council met in an emergency session to discuss weeks of escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the territories.
The urgent talks were requested by council member Jordan following a meeting on Thursday of Arab ambassadors who expressed alarm at the escalating situation.
Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour had called on the Security Council to provide international protection to the holy site.
But Roet said Israel was respectful of all religions in the city. Meanwhile, he said, the Palestinians were unwilling to acknowledge any Jewish rights to the capital’s holy sites.
On Friday, Palestinians torched a Jewish holy site in the West Bank as they staged a “Friday of revolution” against Israel and a man posing as a news photographer stabbed an Israeli soldier before he was shot dead.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “strongly condemns this reprehensible act and calls on those responsible to be swiftly brought to justice,” Assistant Secretary General Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the council.
But Zerihoun also criticized what he called Israel’s “apparent heavy-handed” use of force in dealing with Palestinian violence and said Israeli actions raised “serious questions” about the proportionality of the response.
He said the current crisis could not be solved by military means alone and was a result of ongoing despair by the Palestinians coupled with a lack of hope in the face of ongoing settlement expansion, as well as economic hardship. He accused both sides of escalating the tensions through their fiery rhetoric and called on all parties to work to restore calm.
While Ban’s representative welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s repeated statements that Israel does not intend to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, he said statements were insufficient, as growing movements within the Israeli right were seeking to expand Israeli control over the compound, and were promoting their agenda through words and actions.
Jerusalem, he said, needed to do more on the ground to assure the world that it was committed to the status quo.