“UNESCO is a full partner to the false incitement by Palestinians and radical Islam who claim that Al-Aksa Mosque is in danger,” Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO in Paris Carmel Shama HaCohen charged on Thursday.
Shama HaCohen blamed the U.N. agency’s recent resolutions denying the Jewish connection to Yerushalayim and listing Maaras Hamachpelah as a Palestinian heritage site endangered by Israeli actions for fueling the violence at Har Habayis in recent days.
His office called on UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova to condemn any attempts to use the site as a staging ground for terror attacks, as occurred last Friday when guns were smuggled into the mosque prior to an assault that killed two policemen.
In a letter to Bokova, HaCohen pointed out that “the Old City of Yerushalayim, and its Walls, including Har-Habais, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and as the Director-General of [that] organization, I urge you to strongly condemn this deadly and shameful attack, [which] occurred within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Shama HaCohen predicted that come October, UNESCO’s Executive Board will condemn Israel for installing metal detectors at the site, thereby harming the site’s integrity, freedom of worship, and the status quo of the area.
Therefore, he said, it is important that Bokova state that incitement and terrorism are the true threats here, and not Israeli efforts to maintain security.
Meanwhile, in another development related to the crisis, President Reuven Rivlin spoke by telephone with Turkish President Erdogan.
During their conversation, Rivlin stressed that Israel was maintaining and would continue to maintain the status quo at the holy sites. He added that the steps taken at Har Habayis were intended to ensure that such acts of terror could not be repeated, and that Israel was committed to safeguarding the lives of all the citizens who visited the holy places.
Rivlin also reminded Erdogan that after the terror attack in Turkey, the state of Israel was quick to condemn those criminal acts. He said Israel expected to hear similar condemnation from Turkey, with the understanding that terror was terror wherever it took place; in Yerushalayim, in Istanbul, or in Paris, the statement recorded.
Earlier in the day, it had been reported that Rivlin’s office was seeking to arrange contact with the Turkish leader. However, the statement from Rivlin’s office said that the talk came at Erdogan’s request.
According to a Channel 2 report, the Foreign Ministry advised against the initiative, on the grounds that giving Erdogan, a Hamas ally, a role in settling the crisis would work to Israel’s disadvantage.
Rivlin’s office responded by condemning alleged leaks from the Foreign Ministry, but did not deny the substance of the report.