Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni urged UNESCO to vote against a push by Palestinian leaders to have the West Bank city of Hebron declared as a “World Heritage Site in Danger” in the “State of Palestine,” Ynet Hebrew media outlet reported on Saturday.
“I am an opposition leader in Israel, but I am not in opposition to the history of my people and not an opposition to the truth,” Livni said at the Conference on the Empowerment of Women in Paris, adding:
These decisions will not harm my people’s connection to [Jerusalem and Hebron], but they will hurt UNESCO and the ability to promote common interests.
Israel has already protested at the inclusion of the Old City of Hebron, home to Ibrahimi Mosque, also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The site is claimed to be the resting place of the Jacob, Isaac and Abraham and an important religious sites to Muslims and Jews alike.
Claiming that the site is endangered, the Palestinian Authority (PA) requested that the status of Hebron be fast-tracked onto the 2017 list due to “alarming details about the Israeli violations in Al-Khalil/ Hebron, including the continuous acts of vandalism, property damage, and other attacks.”
Israel refused to allow a team from UNESCO to visit Hebron ahead of the vote, with it’s ambassador to UNESCO, Carmel Sharma HaCohen saying that by refusing the team access for a field visit, Israel was taking a “principled and strategic” stand.
Since Israel took over the West Bank in 1967 and began advancing Israeli settlements across Palestinian territory in violation of international law, Hebron has been a flashpoint for Israeli settler violence on Palestinians and their properties.
The Old City, which is under full Israeli military control, is home to some 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces.
UNESCO is scheduled to decide on the status of the Old City during a conference in Krakow, Poland from July 2-12. The vote is expected to include a clause rejecting Israeli sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1980 in a move never recognised by the international community.