US Ambassador Nikki Haley, “The UNESCO vote on Hebron is tragic on several levels. 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 UN agency…The United States is currently evaluating the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO.”
US Ambassador Nikki Haley came out Friday against a decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to recognize the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian heritage site, with only a passing mention of its significance to the Jewish faith.
“UNESCO has voted to designate the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory and a World Heritage site despite protests by the United States, Israel, and other countries,” read Haley’s statement.
The UNESCO vote on Hebron is tragic on several levels. 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 UN agency. Today’s vote does no one any good and causes much harm.
Haley’s statement also stressed that the decision such as these are influencing its deliberation, on whether it wishes to remain a member of this UN body. “In 2011, in compliance with statutory funding restrictions, the United States stopped funding UNESCO after it admitted the Palestinians as a Member State. While the United States is still on the 58-member UNESCO Executive Board, it no longer has voting rights in the UNESCO General Conference. The United States is currently evaluating the appropriate level of its continued engagement at UNESCO.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued his own, video statement in response to UNESCO’s decision. “This is another delusional UNESCO decision. This time they decided that the Tomb 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 Tomb of the Patriarchs, freedom of religion for all and the truth.”
Netanyahu also responded by declaring that following the UNESCO decision, Israel will be cutting $1 million from the money is transfers to the UN, and allocating it instead to founding a museum of Jewish heritage at Kiryat Arba and Hebron, in addition to others heritage projects connected to Hebron.
Israel and the US tried in vain to prevent the UNESCO vote’s decision. “We’ve done all we could and beyond that,” Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said after the vote, visibly upset. “The Poles reneged on our agreement with them and sold us out to benefit the Arab gang.”
Speaking before the UNESCO assembly following its vote, Shama-Hacohen also said a phone call he had just received from his plumber was more important than the “disgraceful” decision UNESCO made.
“I’m sure the Israeli government will consider how to respond, including sticks and carrots to the relevant bodies, to ensure Jewish life and heritage in Hebron will not only not suffer, but prosper,” he added.
Shama-Hacohen also lashed out against the UN body’s decision to invite the mayor of Hebron to the vote, reminding member states that the mayor was a convicted terrorist with Israeli blood on his hands.
While Israel and the US strongly protested the decision, Palestinian officials called it a “success” for Palestinian diplomacy.
“This vote is a success for the diplomatic battle fought by Palestine on all fronts, in the face of Israeli and American pressure on member states,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said.
“Despite a frantic Israeli campaign spreading lies and distorting the facts about the Palestinian rights, the world has recognized our right to register Hebron and the Ibrahimi Mosque under Palestinian sovereignty. The Israeli occupation of our country does not grant it sovereignty over any part of our land,” the statement added.
Rula Maayah, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, said in a statement the decision was a “historical development because it stressed that Hebron” and its historic mosque “historically belong to the Palestinian people.”
Hebron claims to be one of the oldest cities in the world, dating from the Chalcolithic period or more than 3,000 years BC, the UNESCO resolution said.
At various times it has been conquered by Romans, Jews, Crusaders and Mamluks.
The city is home to the imposing Tomb of the Patriarchs, the resting place of key Biblical figures Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and one of the most important religious sites to Muslims and Jews alike.
The Cave of the Patriarchs, known to the Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, is holy to both faiths and has long been a flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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