The U.N.’s Mideast envoy has spurned Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s invitation to a seminar on Jewish history, made in response to a UNESCO denial of the Jewish connection to Har HaBayis.
The U.N. diplomat, Nickolay Mladenov, quickly declined the invite, telling AFP over the weekend that the “U.N. staff in Yerushalayim know the history of the region, its people and religions all too well.”
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is headquartered in Paris, and Mladenov said that “if someone wants to issue invitations, they should be for Paris and addressed to the ambassadors of the member states of UNESCO there.”
The prime minister’s office did not respond directly to Mladenov.
Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said the lecture is slated for next week, and that the Prime Minister’s Office looked forward to people attending.
“I think I would come and hear what is going to happen,” he said. “If they don’t come, I think that would be more illuminating than anything.”
Netanyahu invited all United Nations staff in Israel to attend a seminar on Jewish history, after a decision by a U.N. cultural body failed to acknowledge Jewish ties to Judaism’s holiest site.
In the decision last month, UNESCO condemned Israel for security restrictions and other measures at Har HaBayis. UNESCO referred to it only by its Arabic name.
“I was shocked to hear that UNESCO adopted a decision denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is hard to believe that anyone, let alone an organization tasked with preserving history, could deny this link, which spans thousands of years.”
To counter what a member of Netanyahu’s staff called “this historical ignorance,” the prime minister, who is a keen historian, said he would host a special lecture on Jewish history for all U.N. personnel in Israel.
It was not immediately clear when the seminar would be held, but staff indicated it could be next week. It was also unclear how many U.N. staff members and diplomats planned to attend. UNESCO had no immediate comment.
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, based in Paris, frequently issues decisions critical of Israel. Many are sponsored and seconded by Islamic states.