United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed on Wednesday 26 October, 2016, a resolution that denied Jewish ties to Jerusalem’s Old city, two weeks after voting on a resolution announcing Al-Aqsa mosque compound Islamic heritage. The resolution passed with 10 votes in favor, two against, and eight abstentions in a secret ballot. The resolution denounces Israeli settler entering into Al-Aqsa Mosuqe and ongoing excavations carried out by Israeli Occupation Authorities under Al-Aqsa mosque, and call for a halt to these aggression. It also criticised Israel for its continuous refusal to let the body’s experts access Jerusalem’s holy sites to determine their conservation status. The document refers to the Jerusalem site only by its Arab name. The resolution was passed by the World Heritage Committee’s 21 member countries. Ten countries voted for, two against, eight abstained and one was absent.
PLO Secretary General Dr. Saeb Erekat in an official statement on the vote said “Israel’s Illegal attempts to change the identity of Occupied East Jerusalem, including its Christian and Muslim traditions, have been ongoing since its occupation of the city in 1967. The State of Palestine, in full cooperation with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, through diplomatic channels, has been doing everything possible in order to preserve the status quo of the historical Holy Sites in the city in line with the internationally recognized status quo arrangement and all international resolutions and treaties Makram Queisi, Jordan’s ambassador to UNESCO, said, “Jerusalem is a site listed on the World Heritage List, and this is the place where this site has to be discussed because the Israeli government after the occupation has changed many aspects on the ground.”
The Old City, home to holy sites, lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is situated in East Jerusalem – the area of the holy city occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel had already suspended its funding to UNESCO when Palestinian membership was approved, along with the United States, which used to provide 22 percent of the agency’s budget. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised Wednesday’s decision and said he would recall his ambassador to UNESCO for consultations on how to proceed.