Israel suspended ties with the cultural body of the United Nations over its decision to classify the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as Palestinian.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which is in charge of preserving historical sites, at the end of its biannual session last week adopted several proposals by Arab states classifying Jewish and Muslim holy sites. It classified Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as a mosque and ruled that the Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs was integral to the Palestinians.
“Israel rejects all five of UNESCO’s decisions and has no intention of cooperating with the organization,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision last week in a statement, saying that “The attempt to detach the people of Israel from its heritage is absurd. If the places where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish nation are buried, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah and Rachel some 4,000 years ago are not part of the Jewish heritage, then what is?
“It is regrettable,” the Israeli leader added, “that the organization established to promote historical heritage sites worldwide is trying for political reasons to detach the ties between the Jewish people and their heritage.”
In February, Netanyahu included both sites on the country’s new national heritage list and allocated money to refurbish them. The decision was condemned throughout the international community; UNESCO asked Israel to remove the sites from the list.