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UNESCO to review new draft challenging Jewish ties to Temple Mount: report

Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, is also venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount and is considered the most sacred place in Judaism.
Thomas Coex (AFP/File)
Draft would have Israel return complex to 'the historic status quo,' alluding to Old City's status before 1967

A draft decision submitted by Jordan and the Palestinians challenging Israel's connection to the Temple mount in Jerusalem is to go before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) once again, the Israeli Ynet news site reports.

The 21 UNESCO member states are currently convening for the committee's 40th session in Istanbul, Turkey, from July 10 -20. 

According to the  American Jewish Committee (AJC), a Jewish advocacy group, the draft which will be presented for the vote recommends that Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount be added to the organizations “List of World Heritage in Danger.”

The draft, says Ynet, would have Israel return the Temple Mount complex to “the historic status quo,” which alludes to the status of the Old City prior to Israel's victory in the 1967 six-day war.

Additionally, the document refers to Israel as an occupying force which it says is damaging structures on the site while preventing restoration projects initiated by Jordan, and calls all holy sites by their Muslim names only, including the Western Wall, says Ynet.

The draft also accuses Israel of violating international treaties such as the Hague Convention and the Geneva Convention.

Israeli officials told Ynet that the document attempts to pave the way towards indictments against Israel at the Criminal Court of Justice in the Hague for alleged violations and illicit activities at the Temple Mount.

Israeli diplomats are reaching out to members states in an effort to stop the draft from passing.

Carmel Shama Hacohen, Israel's UNESCO Ambassador slammed the new draft, saying "Anyone who thought that after the criticism voiced by Israeli and international Jewry against this decision and the recanting of the heads of state and foreign ministers around the world following the last decision that Palestinians would come to their senses need to come to their senses and internalize this complicated reality.”

“We have made a concerted diplomatic effort but the voting will be conducted by a secret ballot and the rules of the game are well known: Palestinians almost always have a majority,” she added.

A statement from Israel's foreign ministry also denounced the document as "malicious and dishonest," said Ynet.

“The document that was presented to UNESCO is another malicious and dishonest attempt to harm Israel’s affinity with its capital,” said the statement read.

“This is a tendentious text and we hope that it is does not receive support from the member states. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the nation of Israel and of Israel alone.”

A similar resolution passed in April which denied Jewish claims to the Temple Mount and Western Wall drew harsh condemnations from Israel.

The Paris-based UNESCO's Executive Board passed a motion referring to Jerusalem's Temple Mount solely as Al-Aqsa Mosque' and the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, as the Al-Buraq Plaza.

The flashpoint complex is considered Judaism's holiest site, once the site of the first and second Temples, and is the third holiest to the Muslim faith.

"The decision made by the United Nations is absurd," a statement from the Prime Minster's Office said following the April vote.

"UNESCO ignores the unique historical relationship between Judaism and the Temple Mount, where two temples stood for a thousand years."

Following the vote, French President Francois Hollande penned a letter to France's Jewish community in which he said that France's support of the resolution came as a result of a "misunderstanding."

The leader pledged France would not support such measures in the future. 

Last month Brazil likewise backtracked on its vote in favor of the resolution, saying that leaving out the Jewish connections to the site in the text of the resolution was an "error," and that the text was "unbalanced."

A statement from Brazil's Foreign Ministry said that the government vowed to “review its vote if the deficiencies pointed out in the decision are not corrected in future assessment of the subject by UNESCO.”

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Kiddy, an Israel champion, describes the Muslims as 'subhumans' .... rich indeed.

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