Israel suspends cooperation with UNESCO
Jerusalem: Israel on Wednesday suspended cooperation with UNESCO to protest at the cultural organisation`s description of the tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel, near Bethlehem in the West Bank, as a mosque.
"Israel has suspended cooperation with UNESCO," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Parliament, according to a statement from his office.
The move comes after the United Nations cultural organisation on October 21 adopted a series of decisions concerning the Palestinian territories, including one on what it called "Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel`s Tomb in Bethlehem”, a formula rejected by Israel.
Ayalon said ties with UNESCO would remain frozen until it repealed the decision describing the tomb as a mosque, a definition Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as "absurd”.
"The UNESCO decision was made by the automatic Arab majority and was another attempt to delegitimise Israel instigated by the Palestinian Authority," the statement said.
"Decisions like these push peace further away and harm the reputation of UNESCO, which has become a rubber stamp for the Palestinian Authority," the statement said.
There was no immediate reaction from UNESCO.
The site, where according to tradition the biblical matriarch Rachel is buried, is the third holiest in Judaism, but also considered a holy place for Muslims. According to tradition, women who have difficulty conceiving pray at the tomb for children.
The tomb is in an enclave controlled by the Israeli military on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
Rachel`s Tomb, together with the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, were at the centre of controversy earlier in the year when Israel included them in a national heritage restoration plan.
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova Bokova endorsed a statement by Robert Serry, UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, that the sites have "historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam and to Christianity”.
She also "expressed her concern" at the heritage plan and the "resulting escalation of tension in the area”.
Israel defended the decision at the time, saying the plan involved only restoration work and promising there would be no attempt to change the delicate status quo at these sites.
- NHRC issues notice to Rajasthan government over death of 11 children in home
- Delhi: 10-year-old boy dies due to overdose of Vitamin D
- Haryana: Groom injured in celebratory firing at wedding in Hissar
- Phase V of West Bengal Assembly polls starts today
- Discussion over Mamata Banerjee's close aide Firhad Hakim's 'mini Pakistan' comment
- Heatwave grips east, central and peninsular India; many dead in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh due to cyclone, hailstorm
- Anti-Donald Trump protests break out for second day in California
- UN council discusses move to enforce North Korea sanctions
- Norway helicopter crash: All 13 people on board dead, 11 bodies recovered
- Britain`s queen joins royal Invictus Games challenge to Obamas -Watch video