Israel is currently hosting a fifth of all ambassadors to the UN in an effort to change the country’s image among the international community, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, is acting as a guide to 40 of his fellow envoys in the run up to the country’s Independence Day which is marked on Nakba Day when nearly a million Palestinians were forced to flee their homes by Jewish militia to make way for the creation of Israel.
Officials from Serbia, Jamaica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Liberia, Ukraine, Uganda, Slovenia, Malta, Mozambique and Ethiopia are currently on a tour of Israel with Danon, the newspaper reported.
“I have brought groups of ambassadors here before, but never a delegation this large,” Danon said.
As we get ready to celebrate 70 years of independence, I’m honored to be joined in Jerusalem by @UN ambassadors from around the world. They’re learning about the historic connection to our beautiful land & the contributions our vibrant country makes to the international community pic.twitter.com/rUtx5LgzxI
— Ambassador Danon (@dannydanon) April 16, 2018
The trip has been organised in light of the recent UNESCO resolutions recognising the right of Palestinians to the region. Since 2016, the agency has voted to condemn Israeli activity in East Jerusalem, found no historical connection between the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Judaism, and recognised the Ibrahimi Mosque as Palestinian heritage site under threat from Israel.
Israel is looking to change this perception and garner more favourable votes at the UN by presenting the dubious history of Jewish connection to the sites.
After a trip to East Jerusalem, Ethiopia’s Ambassador Tekeda Alemu told reporters: “This has been a very fantastic experience. One lesson that was very clear is that there is a clear connection between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Jewish people. This cannot be ignored.”
The ambassadors are scheduled to meet Jewish settlers near the Gaza border today, and visit a now-destroyed tunnel that was previously used to send goods into the besieged Strip, home to some two million people suffering from the 11-year long Israeli blockade. Israel claims that Gaza tunnels are used by Hamas militants to commit terror attacks.
Danon said that the visit to the Gaza border was particularly important given that Israel’s violent reaction to peaceful Palestinian protests was likely to be discussed at the Security Council and the UN General Assembly in the near future. Some 27 Palestinians have been killed and thousands have been injured over the past three weeks after Israeli forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators.
The delegates will also meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin later this week. However, the delegation, that was co-sponsored by the Foreign Ministry, the March of the Living and the American Zionist Movement, is not scheduled to travel to any of the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation.
Last October, Israel announced that it would follow the US and leave UNESCO in protest of its recent resolutions they deemed “anti-Semitic”. The two countries have cut funding to the organisation on multiple occasions, after the cultural agency voted in favour of the Palestinians.
However, Israel appeared to leave the door open to reconciliation with the UN cultural body announcing that the change would take at least a year and would be dependent on UNESCO’s future actions.