The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) member states have renewed a resolution criticising Israel for restricting Muslim access to a Jerusalem holy site, a European diplomatic source said, angering Israel's government by also referring to the area only by its Muslim names.
The site is revered by Jews and Muslims alike, known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the al-Aqsa compound or Haram al-Sharif.[caption id="attachment_22000" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Israeli policemen prevent Palestinian women from entering the compound which houses al-Aqsa mosque, September 13, 2015 REUTERS[/caption]
The resolution, which was put forward by Palestine along with Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, was approved by 24 members of the 58-member organization. 26 countries abstained from voting while only 6 countries voted against it, 2 other countries were missing from the vote.
The United States, Britain, Germany, Holland, Lithuania and Estonia voted against the resolution, while none of the European states supported the motion following diplomatic efforts by Israeli diplomats. The draft resolution acknowledges Jerusalem to be a holy city for Muslims, Christians and Jewish people, but says the Temple Mount is sacred only to Muslims. In April, Unesco's executive board released and then adopted a similar resolution, calling Israel "the Occupying Power" and urging it to stop all violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is one of the holy sites of the Temple Mount complex. A total of 33 countries voted for the resolution.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, "This is an important message to Israel that it must end its occupation and recognise the Palestinian state and Jerusalem as its capital with its sacred Muslim and Christian sites."
France, which is trying to bring the Israeli and Palestinians leaders back to the negotiating table by year-end, was among countries voting in favour of the resolution on a previous occasion, a move that caused a diplomatic row with the Israeli government.
Earlier this year, President Francois Hollande said there had been an "unfortunate," amendment to the text on that occasion and that he would be "extremely vigilant" with this year's resolution.
Israel suspended cooperation with Unesco on Friday after the UN cultural organisation adopted two resolutions on annexed east Jerusalem ahead of a final vote next week.
In a letter sent to Unesco Director General Irina Bokova, Education Minister Naftali Bennett accused the body of ignoring thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and aiding "Islamist terror." "I have notified the Israel National Commission for Unesco to suspend all professional activities with the international organisation," he said.
Unesco had no immediate comment on the Israeli move.
The status of Jerusalem is the thorniest issue of the decades-long Palestinian conflict. Israel captured east Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community, declaring the whole city its indivisible capital.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state.