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Netanyahu compares Abbas to IS and Hamas ahead of UNESCO vote

An IDF soldier salutes at the Western Wall during a Memorial Day ceremony, Tuesday April 21, 2015
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UNESCO proposal 'direct continuation of delusional Palestinian campaign of lies': Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the Islamic State jihadist group and Hamas in a joint press conference with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in Jerusalem Tuesday.

"President Abbas has joined ISIS and Hamas in claiming that Israel threatens the al-Aqsa mosque. This, Mr. Secretary, is a total lie," Netanyahu said.

In the press conference, Netanyahu made it clear that Israel is protecting the holy sites of all religions'and safeguarding the status quo on the Temple Mount, and accused the Palestinians of violating it by smuggling explosives into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and by "violently preventing Jews and Christians from visiting" the site. Six Arab states, on behalf of the Palestinians have submitted a proposal UNESCO to try to establish the Western Wall as part of the al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

The proposal, submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates will be put to vote on Wednesday and in addition to declaring the Western Wall part of the al-Aqsa mosque, the proposal calls for international condemnation of Israel's encouragement to its citizens to carry arms in response to the latest terror wave and condemnation for the actions of Israeli forces in Jerusalem, which they call the "occupied capital of Palestine."

Thomas Coex (AFP/File)

Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid party met with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in London Tuesday and asked the UK to prevent the proposal.

"This decision is a direct continuation of the delusional Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement led by the Palestinian Authority. This increases terrorism in teh streets and encourages young Palestinians to go out and kill innocent people."

Irina Bukova, the Director General of UNESCO released a statement earlier Tuesday saying that she "deplores the recent proposals under discussion by the UNESCO Executive Board" and appealed to them to take "decisions that do not further inflame tensions on the ground and that encourage respect for the sanctity of holy site."

"We all have responsibility to UNESCO's mandate to take decisions that promote dialogue, tolerance and peace," Bukova said adding that "this is especially important for young people, who should be nurtured and educated for peace."

Jewish organizations also came out in force against the initiative, with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the president of the World Jewish Congress releasing strong statements against the proposal.

IDF

Jewish organizations also came out in force against the initiative, with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the president of the World Jewish Congress releasing strong statements against the proposal.

Malcolm Hoenlein and Stephen Greenberg of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement saying that "in the millennia before the recreation of the state of Israel in 1948, Arab leaders largely ignored Jerusalem, laid no claim to the Western Wall or Rachel’s Tomb. There is no explanation or legitimate rationale for this blasphemous initiative. We call upon the members of UNESCO and its leadership to absolutely reject this effort. Israel has gone to great lengths to protect the rights of Muslims at their holy sites, often limiting the access of its Jewish and Christian citizens."

“No UNESCO or UN resolution or action can undo more than 2,000 years of history,” the statement continued. “[Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’s goal is to deny Israelis and the Jewish people their connection to the land. He seeks to cut off their past in order to cut off their future. It would be better if President Abbas would devote the same energy to reigning in the violence being perpetrated by Palestinians and to engage Prime Minister Netanyahu in meaningful talks. He well knows that his actions at UNESCO can only undermine any prospect of peace and gains his people nothing.”

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder said that the proposal "goes in the face of the UNESCO Constitution, which very clearly states the organization’s aim to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration and coexistence. It would make a mockery of that founding principle if the UNESCO Executive Council were to back such a resolution. UNESCO must not be turned into a battleground for conflicts between religions."

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American Congress members also urged US ambassador to UNESCO Crystal Nix-Hines to block the draft resolution.

"As members of the United States Congress committed to promoting peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories through direct, bilateral negotiations aimed at achieving a two-state solution, we urge you to use the voice and vote of the United States to prevent this draft resolution from advancing," wrote Democratic Representatives Nita M. Lowey and Ted Deutch.

"Palestinian efforts to claim exclusive ownership of religious sites such as the Western Wall, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Rachel’s Tomb – and their denial of any Jewish claims to these sites, although Jews have prayed in them for thousands of years, reveal a central obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Palestinian refusal to acknowledge the very existence of Jews in the ancient Jewish homeland," the letter by Lowey and Deutch continued on to say.

The Western Wall is all that remains from the complex of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. The Western Wall is part of the retaining wall that surrounds the al-Aqsa complex, the third holiest site in Muslim tradition where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.

A limited number of Jewish visitors are allowed on the al-Aqsa complex, but are forbidden to pray there.

Read more: Israel fights UNESCO resolution to designate Western Wall a Muslim holy site

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