UNESCO ratifies contentious resolution denying Israeli links to Jerusalem

Executive board of cultural agency adopts text that raised Israel’s ire, led Netanyahu to announce another cut in payments to UN

An aerial view of Jerusalem, on December 12, 2013. (Flash90)
An aerial view of Jerusalem, on December 12, 2013. (Flash90)

PARIS — The executive board of the UN’s cultural agency ratified on Friday a resolution that calls Israel “the occupying power” in Jerusalem and disputes its ties to the capital.

The resolution was passed by a UNESCO commission on Tuesday, sparking Israel’s anger. A day after the text was adopted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel would cut another $1 million from its payments to the UN, bringing the total cuts since December 2016 to $9 million.

Submitted to UNESCO’s Executive Board by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan on Israel’s Independence Day, the resolution on “Occupied Palestine” referred to Israel as the “occupying power” in its capital, indicating that it has no legal or historical ties to any part of the city.

The resolution passed with 22 votes in favor, 23 abstentions, 10 opposed, and representatives of three countries absent.

The text, approved at UNESCO headquarters, denounced “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

It said such moves were “null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”

It particularly criticized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem after capturing it in 1967, a move that remains unrecognized by the international community. Israel considers Jerusalem its undivided capital; the Palestinians want East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of a future state.

Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians roundly condemned the UNESCO resolution, while the Palestinians commended it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a reception for foreign diplomats in Israel marking Israel's 69th Independence Day, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a reception for foreign diplomats in Israel marking Israel’s 69th Independence Day, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu derided the text as “absurd” while lauding what he described as increased global support for the Jewish state in international forums.

He said that due to Israel’s work on the international stage, “the result is that the number of countries supporting this absurd vote in UNESCO is getting smaller. A year ago, 32 [countries supporting similar votes], half a year ago it went down to 26, and now it has gone down to 22.”

“My goal is to have no votes in UNESCO on Israel,” Netanyahu said.

The 10 countries that voted against the resolution were the US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Greece, Paraguay, Ukraine, Togo and Germany.

Israel has previously clashed with the UN and UNESCO in particular. In April 2016, 24 countries voted for a similar UNESCO resolution, with six opposing and 26 abstaining.

It also previously ordered cuts in payments following critical resolutions.

In December, after the Security Council passed Resolution 2334, Netanyahu ordered $6 million cut from Israel’s payment to the UN. And in March, after the Human Rights Council passed five anti-Israel resolutions, Netanyahu vowed to cut an additional $2 million.

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