Bennett’s statement Friday followed passionate condemnations by Israel as well as international Jewish groups and communities of a vote Thursday in Paris by the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Through a majority of 24 to 6 votes, the board passed a preliminary version of a resolution that calls several sites holy to Judaism only by their Islamic names without mentioning its Jewish names in Hebrew or English. The sites include the Temple Mount, referred to as Al-Ḥaram Al-Sharif.
Israeli officials will neither meet UNESCO representatives nor engage in cooperation in international conferences or professional cooperation with the organization, Bennet said in a statement that followed the outpour of condemnations – including by a US official who called the vote “one-sided and unhelpful.”
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called the move by UNESCO a “one-sided attempt to ignore Israel’s 3,000-year bond to its capital city” and “further evidence of the enormous anti-Israel bias” at the United Nations.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy adviser Laura Rosenberer condemned the resolution stating, “It’s Outrageous that UNESCO would deny the deep, historic connection between Judaism and the Temple Mount.”
“Your decision denies history and encourages terror,” Bennett wrote the countries of UNESCO. “Those who give prizes to the supporters of Jihad in Jerusalem the same week that two Jews are murdered in the city could god forbid encourage more victims.”
The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution as 26 additional countries abstained, in what Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO called an improvement to previous UNESCO votes that were supported by Western countries although they contained similar language on Jerusalem. Russia and China were among those backing it.
“This vote was certainly unpleasant but I’m very pleased with the result,” Ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen told Army Radio Friday morning. “Our goal was to bring back France and our friends in Europe to not support the Palestinian resolution.”
He noted that Sweden, whose government is a harsh critic of Israel and the only EU cabinet that recognizes the Palestinian Authority as a state, also sat out the vote, as did India, which historically has supported anti-Israel resolutions in UN forums.
France and Sweden both abstained from Thursday’s vote after supporting a UNESCO resolution in April that also ignored the site’s Jewish ties. The April vote saw 33 votes in favor, six against and 17 abstentions.
Classified as pertaining to “Occupied Palestine,” the UNESCO resolution passed Thursday was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan. While it affirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions,” it contains two references to Judaism: One in describing holy sites in Hebron and the other in decrying “the enforced creation of a new Jewish prayer platform south of the Mughrabi Ascent in Al-Buraq Plaza.”
The so-called al-Buraq Plaza is better known as the Western Wall Plaza – possibly Judaism’s holiest site. The use of the Arabic-language name is a recent development lifted from Hamas literature, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.