A last-minute intervention by Russia has saved Israel from condemnation at a General Executive meeting of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. UNESCO members were due to vote on five resolutions proposed by Jordan, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Syria which, if passed, would have led to strong criticism of Israel over its actions in the Jerusalem’s Old City.
Russia’s envoy to UN successfully put forward an alternative plan ensuring any resolution on the issue would be delayed for a six month period in which an independent UN mission would be dispatched to Jerusalem to establish the facts. The vote was passed by 28 votes to 23, with France the only EU member state to oppose Russia’s motion.
Jordan contends that Israel is engaging in a series of archaeological digs designed at detrimentally altering the character of the Old City, without their prior approval. Amman has also protested against Jewish worshippers being allowed access to pray on the Temple Mount. Jerusalem’s Old City and its surrounding are classified as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
Meanwhile, the PA applied to UNESCO asking the international body – which admitted ‘Palestine’ as a member earlier this year - to criticize Israel for allegedly blocking educational tools in the Gaza Strip and for its settlement activities in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Its pursuit of these resolutions follows its earlier successful appeal for world heritage status for the Church of Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, which Israel argued was a politically-motivated appeal designed at aiding its intended appeal for unilateral statehood at the United Nations.