Estonia, Germany and Switzerland voted against the resolution, while Algeria, Iraq, Malaysia, Qatar. Senegal, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates voted in its favor. Cambodia, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Serbia and Thailand abstained.
The resolution also accused Israel of failing to disclose crucial information on the state of the various sites in the Old City to the World Heritage Committee. Israel canceled a U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization fact-finding mission to the city, which was planned for May, saying that the Palestinian Authority had politicized the issue despite agreeing not to.
“This is a dark day for UNESCO,” a statement by the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. “Exactly as Israel had warned in the past, the Palestinians are exploiting their admission to UNESCO as a member state in order to hijack the agenda and drag this important U.N. agency into the abyss of politicized manipulation.”
UNESCO accepted the Palestinian Authority as a full-fledge member in October 2011. Israel suspended its ties with the U.N. body following the vote and the United States suspended the funding lent to it. At $60 million a year, the U.S. provides about 22% of UNESCO’s annual budget.
The Jordanian-drafted resolution, which was a last-minute addition to the agenda, came as a surprise to those present, and has reinforced Israel’s concerns that the Palestinians will use Israeli excavation and construction in Jerusalem as political rhetoric.
The meeting, which focused on promoting tourism in Cambodia, was supposed to see the Palestinians defer five pending anti-Israel resolutions concerning Al-Aqsa mosque, the Mughrabi Gate bridge, Bethlehem, Hebron and Gaza.
The Palestinians had agreed to postpone their motions following an agreement signed with Jordan in March, cementing Jordan’s custodianship of the Islamic holy places in Jerusalem. Though the Jordanian Waqf, which administers the Temple Mount compound, already manages Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites in coordination with Israel, the agreement reinforces Jordan’s power in the city in a manner which may restrict Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.
The agreement stressed Jordan’s right to maintain the holy sites and its recognition of “the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people is expressed in realizing the State of Palestine.” Former Jordanian Communications Minister Sami al-Maayta stated that the agreement was intended to limit the Judaization of Jerusalem.
Israel’s refusal to allow the UNESCO mission into the Old City prompted UNESCO’s Arab members to hijack the meeting and push for an official censure against Israel, over its continued developments in the city, including the construction of a visitors’ center, the installation of an elevator near the Western Wall and what the Palestinian claim are excavations that are damaging Muslim sites on Temple Mount.
“It is still premature to talk of a confederation, given the official and resolute Jordanian position that it is necessary first of all to establish an independent Palestinian state,” Palestinian Liberation Organization Central Committee member Abbas Zaki told the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute.
The reverberations of the fight over the hotly contested religious site made it all the way to Saudi Arabia, who is custodian of the holy Muslim sites. The Saudi Gazette quoted a statement by the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage saying that Israeli excavations near the Mughrabi Gate, Umayyad palace and the entrance to the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan were “a theft and piracy against the Islamic civilization and culture … aimed at the [Judaization of] Jerusalem and the collapse of Al-Aqsa mosque to build the so-called second [sic] temple on its ruins.”
Israel maintains that is has a strict policy against excavation in Islamic holy sites.
“The Israel Antiquities Authority has never excavated, nor will it ever permit excavation, in the Temple Mount compound,” the Foreign Ministry said. “It is a site of supreme historical value in which excavations are prohibited. All construction is to take place outside the Temple Mount, and care taken to preserve the status quo.”
The Foreign Ministry remains firm that Israel will continue to support freedom of worship in Jerusalem, despite the resolution’s apparent claims that Israel has encroached on religious freedoms in excavations and construction projects in the Old City.
“Israel will uphold its commitments and its sovereign responsibility by continuing to ensure freedom of worship to all faiths in Jerusalem, even as UNESCO insists on turning its back to reality and wreaking damage to the interests of member states through the regurgitation of Palestinian propaganda,” the statement said.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=10265