Israel recalls ambassador after second UNESCO vote denying Jewish connection to Jerusalem
Wednesday's resolution came on the same day Israeli archaeologists unveiled a 7th century papyrus that contained the earliest mention in Hebrew of Jerusalem outside the Bible. Photograph: (Reuters)
Israel recalled its ambassador to UNESCO for consultations Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, after a second resolution accused of denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
"The theatre of the absurd continues and I decided to recall our ambassador for consultation," Netanyahu said in a statement. "We will decide what the next steps will be."
The Israeli ambassador to the UN body, Carmel Shama Hacohen, told public radio that "we are studying the possibility of breaking all contact with UNESCO".
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee earlier adopted a resolution on the "Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls," saying it was "deeply concerned" by Israeli building works and archaeological excavations in the city.
The vote comes eight days after UNESCO's executive council backed a resolution on the same theme that infuriated Israel.
The resolution refers throughout to the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Al-Haram Al-Sharif religious complex, without using the Israeli name "Temple Mount," according to a copy seen by AFP.
Despite what an Israeli official called long efforts to get the resolution amended or dropped, the heritage committee, made up of 21 member states, adopted the text proposed by Kuwait, Lebanon and Tunisia.
The 14-hectare (35-acre) rectangular esplanade at the southeastern corner of the Old City is the third holiest site in Islam and the most holy in Judaism. Jews who believe it to be the location of the ancient first and second temples, the latter of which was destroyed in 70 AD.
Senior Palestinian figure Saeb Erekat hailed the resolution's passing, saying it "aims at reaffirming the importance of Jerusalem for the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam."
"Israel has been using archaeological claims and distortion of facts as a way to legitimise the annexation of occupied east Jerusalem," he added.
Israel occupied and later annexed Palestinian east Jerusalem in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.
Wednesday's resolution came on the same day Israeli archaeologists unveiled a 7th century BC text they said contains the earliest mention in Hebrew of Jerusalem outside the Bible.
The antiquities authority said the papyrus, found near the Dead Sea, proved that "Jews were in this city 2,700 years ago."
Culture minister Miri Regev pounced on the find as an opportunity to attack UNESCO. She said the discovery was proof Jerusalem "has been and will forever remain the eternal capital of the Jewish people".