After UN agency’s diabolical decision, Israel deducts $1M to UNESCO to be diverted to a series of Jewish heritage projects related to Hebron.
• Defense Minister Lieberman: ‘Resolution is outrageous.’
• U.S. envoy to the UN Haley says, vote is “an affront to history.”
By Shlomo Cesana, Gideon Allon, Erez Linn, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weakened slashed $1 million from the fees Israel pays the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after the agency designated the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage site. The prime minister said the funds would be diverted to a series of Jewish heritage projects related to Hebron.
Israel’s annual contribution to UNESCO stands at $12 million.
Twelve of the World Heritage Committee’s 21 member states voted in favor of the resolution Friday, three opposed it and six abstained.
The resolution, debated as part of the committee’s 41st annual summit in Krakow, Poland, named the Cave of the Patriarchs as the third cultural site on UNESCO’s list of endangered World Heritage sites that is located in the “State of Palestine.” The other two are the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem and the “cultural landscape of southern Jerusalem, Battir.”
UNESCO spokeswoman Lucia Iglesias confirmed that the tomb was put on the agency’s endangered sites’ list, adding the exact wording of the designation would be decided later.
Netanyahu lambasted the resolution as “another delusional UNESCO decision. This time they decided that the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site, meaning that it is not Jewish, and that the site is in danger. Not a Jewish site?! Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah — our patriarchs and matriarchs! And the site is in danger? It is only in those places where Israel is, such as Hebron, that freedom of religion for all is ensured.
“In the Middle East, mosques, churches and synagogues in every other place are being bombed — in places that are not Israel. We will continue to protect the Cave of the Patriarchs, freedom of religion for all and the truth,” he said.
President Reuven Rivlin also leveled harsh criticism at the U.N. agency, saying, “UNESCO seems intent on spouting anti-Jewish lies, while it remains silent as the region’s heritage is destroyed by brutal extremists.”
Yisrael Beytenu leader Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the resolution “outrageous.”
“UNESCO is a politically biased, anti-Semitic, disgraceful organization. No decision by this irrelevant organization will undermine our historic right to the Cave of the Patriarchs or our right to this land. This resolution also proves, once again, that the Palestinian Authority does not seek peace and only aims to slander and incite against Israel.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said UNESCO’s “automatic Arab majority succeeded in passing a resolution that attempts to appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people. This is a badge of shame for UNESCO, which time after time chooses to side with lies.”
Habayit Hayehudi leader Education Minister Naftali Bennett called the vote a “disgrace.”
“The Jewish bond to Hebron is stronger than any vote and dates back thousands of years,” he said, adding that in the wake of the decision, Israel must highlight these ties even further.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) said, “This decision is another stain on this international organization and on each of the countries that voted in favor of it. Not only are the Cave of the Patriarchs and Hebron Jewish heritage sites, there are sites to which the people of Israel have a historical, proprietary and legal right under international law, as well.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid called the resolution “despicable and bogus,” saying, “UNESCO doesn’t consider the Bible to be heritage? This resolution stems from terrible ignorance at best and at worst, it stems from hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.”
Habayit Hayehudi MK Moti Yogev called the organization “anti-Semitic and divorced from reality.”
Construction Minister Yoav Gallant (Kulanu) said, “Hebron is the city of our forefathers — it always has been and always will be. No despicable lie by UNESCO will succeed in rewriting history.”
‘Resolution impossible to justify’
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned the decision as harmful.
The vote “does no one any good and causes much harm. It represents an affront to history. It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable U.N. agency,” she said.
A statement by the United States Delegation to the World Heritage Committee said, “The decision to inscribe Hebron/Al-Khalil Old Town on an emergency basis is divisive, confusing and impossible to justify. The site is not under any real or immediate threat. Indeed, the only urgency here is an urgency to express political anger.
“Had the Committee shown patience, this inscription might have represented, at some time in the future, an example of the World Heritage Convention acting as the international community’s best and most important tool for cultural dialogue, mutual understanding and peace. Instead, the politically motivated decision today to inscribe only further stains UNESCO’s reputation and further divides this house.”
Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO monitoring the work of the agencies operating under the auspices of the international body, condemned the resolution.
“U.N. Watch is alarmed that the world body to protect cultural heritage was hijacked … by a cynical, divisive and politicized campaign waged by the Palestinians. … The resolution dismisses the Jewish and Christian heritage of the biblical city of Hebron, and falsely claims that Israel is endangering the holy sites. Just as it would be inconceivable for UNESCO to deny the Islamic character of Medina, it is outrageous for the world body to do the same to Judaism’s second holiest site,” he said in a statement.
The World Heritage Committee has “failed to take into account its own expert advice, which opposed the Palestinian nomination for failing to properly recognize Hebron’s Jewish and Christian heritage. This week’s cynical and inflammatory decisions on Hebron and Jerusalem do nothing to advance the peace process for Israelis and Palestinians, and only further pull them apart.
“The resolutions threaten to alter the delicate status quo at Jewish, Christian and Islamic holy places in the region, instead of preserving the outstanding universal value of these sites, which is UNESCO’s mission. Moreover, the resolutions harm UNESCO and its world heritage committee, and cast a shadow upon the reputation of the United Nations as a whole.
“We urge the Palestinians and the Arab states, and UNESCO’s committees, to refrain from further provocative actions and statements that hurt the people in the region, as well as the United Nations itself,” the statement said.
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