Haaretz Hebrew newspaper has revealed that UNESCO’s Arab member states have canceled a draft resolution against Israel that was set to be voted on in an upcoming meeting in Paris.
The newspaper pointed out yesterday that the draft resolution criticises the Israeli government’s policy in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The newspaper added that this is the first time since April 2013 that no draft resolution on the Israeli-Arab conflict has been proposed at a UNESCO conference or one of its institutions.
The newspaper quoted a high-ranking official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry as saying: “The Arab states have decided to cancel the draft resolution after discreet diplomatic contacts between UNESCO Executive Committee Chairman Michael Forbes and [Israeli envoy to UNESCO] Carmel Shama-Hacohen and Jordanian Ambassador Makram Qaisi.”
The official pointed out that the US has played a role and its envoy to the peace process, Jason Greenblatt, also intervened in person.
As part of an agreement between the two sides it was decided that instead of voting on two draft resolutions concerning East Jerusalem and the situation in occupied Palestine – which had been submitted by the Arab member states under the chairmanship of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority – the chairman of the UNESCO Executive Committee proposed postponing the vote on these two drafts for half a year.
The Israeli official added that, “The increasing opposition of UNESCO member states against the political decisions on Jerusalem convinced Jordanians and other Arab countries that it would be useful to cancel the resolution drafts at the next conference… and the Arab countries understand that in every vote they lose part of the support for their case, and they simply do not want to be humiliated.”
Over the past four years, particularly during the last two years, voting processes have occurred periodically at UNESCO on resolutions that are in favour of the Palestinians and that criticise Israel’s policy in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Since April 2015 the UN has ratified five resolutions over issues that relate to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, in addition to a decision which admits that Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (The Sanctuary of Abraham) in Hebron is a Palestinian heritage site.
The series of decisions led to a severe crisis in the relations between Israel and UNESCO. Tel Aviv subsequently froze part of its cooperation with the UN, refused to pay membership fees and reduced the value of the financial allocations it transfers to the United Nations.