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Israel braces for another controversial UNESCO vote on Jerusalem

The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation) will vote today on a controversial motion on Jerusalem, submitted by the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations.

According to several media reports the motion claims that Israel is damaging holy sites and infringing freedom of religion in Jerusalem. It refers to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount exclusively by its Muslim name of Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The motion also omits any reference to Jerusalem’s holy sites as significant to either Jewish or Christian faiths.

The 21-member World Heritage Committee is expected to approve the motion, especially since the likes of Lebanon, Kuwait and Indonesia, who traditionally support motions hostile to Israel at the  UN, have recently joined the body.

The vote comes just a week after UNESCO’s Executive Board approved a similar motion which pointedly used quotation marks to the phrase “Western Wall”, the Jewish Holy site. However, last week’s motion did acknowledge that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions.

Following last week’s vote, both Mexico and Brazil voiced regret at having supported the motion, while Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called the vote “unacceptable”.

Media reports say that in advance of today’s vote, the Palestinian and Jordanian delegations have sent a letter to World Heritage Committee members urging a consensus approval of the motion, or else they will be “obliged to consider other options”.

Israel’s UNESCO representative Carmel Shama-Hacohen said that the “ultimatum” merely exposed the Palestinian delegation as “bullies and liars”.

He added: “The Palestinians and the Arabs understand that after Mexico and Italy they can expect a number of additional unpleasant surprises.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called today’s vote a “continuation of the theatre of the absurd. Who’s really deserving of condemnation is UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, not Israel”.

US democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also criticised the upcoming vote as “disappointing and wrong”.

She added: “I have always stood with Israel to reject these biased actions at the United Nations, and I always will.”


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