Israel suspends ties with UNESCO in spat over holy site

Jerusalem [Israel], Oct. 15 : Israel has suspended ties with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), after a draft decision that Israel says ignores Judaism's ties to the religion's holiest site.

The draft decision notes the importance of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but makes no mention of why the city is significant to Christians or Jews, reports the CNN.

A subsidiary body of UNESCO's Executive Board passed the resolution Thursday in Paris. It refers to Jerusalem's holiest site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

The draft decision, which largely criticizes Israel's actions in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, was proposed by a group of Arab countries and drew harsh rebukes from Israel and the United States.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the move as absurd, saying, "To say that Israel has no connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall is like saying that China has no connection to the Great Wall of China or that Egypt has no connection to the Pyramids.

By this absurd decision, UNESCO has lost what little legitimacy it has left." In a letter from Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett following the vote, Israel announced it will freeze all professional activities with UNESCO.

Criticizing the decision, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner also said, "We are deeply concerned about these kinds of recurring, politicized resolutions that do nothing to advance constructive results on the ground.

And we don't believe they should be adopted". The United States stopped funding UNESCO in 2011 over the organization's acceptance of a Palestinian bid for full membership.

This week's resolution, put forward by Arab countries including Egypt, Algeria and Qatar, was adopted by a 24-6 vote, with 26 abstentions.

Source: ANI