Agency’s World Heritage Committee set on Wednesday to approve resolution that makes no mention of Jewish or Christian links to holy city. Just a week after the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) ratified a controversial resolution that ignored Jewish and Christian ties to the Temple Mount, the body’s World Heritage Committee is set to vote on a similar text. The UNESCO heritage committee’s 21 member states are expected to vote on Wednesday in Paris on the resolution, entitled, “Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls.” As with last week’s contentious text, the latest draft is expected to pass with a comfortable majority.
A draft of the resolution obtained by The Times of Israel once again refers to the Temple Mount compound solely by its Muslim names, “Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” and defines it only as “a Muslim holy site of worship.” As the site of the Biblical temples, the mount is the holiest place in Judaism.
While last week’s text did include one passage with a mention of the importance of Jerusalem’s Old City for “the three monotheistic religions,” the heritage committee’s resolution text includes no references to Jewish or Christian ties to the area’s holy sites.
According to Israeli officials, there is some chance that the Arab nations sponsoring the resolution — Kuwait, Lebanon and Tunisia — will agree to insert a similar passage in the final draft, in order to ensure that Western countries vote for the resolution, or at least abstain.
Last week’s resolution referred to Israel as “the occupying power” at the holy sites. The new resolution does not. Nor does the new version put quotation marks around the Jewish term “Western Wall,” a punctuation seen in Israel as further bolstering the original resolution’s disdain of a Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site. Israel’s envoy to UNESCO, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, said over the weekend that these seemingly minor changes in so hostile a text nonetheless mark significant concessions on the part of Arab states, which would not have been achievable only a few months ago.
Last week’s resolution, which was approved at the UNESCO committee stage on October 13 with 24 “yes” votes, six “no” votes and 26 abstentions, and then formally confirmed by UNESCO’s executive on October 18, sparked vociferous condemnation in Israel, as well as from UNESCO’s own director and several foreign leaders. A chorus of Israeli politicians, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but including left-wing lawmakers, slammed the decision as absurd and UNESCO as detached from reality.