Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told UNESCO to take a hike for its call to remove the Cave of Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb from the list of Israel’s national heritage sites as ‘part of Palestinian escalation in international organizations.’
YNET NEWS Danny Ayalon told the Knesset, “Israel rejects all five of UNESCO’s decisions and has no intention of cooperating with the organization,”
the deputy FM added. “We’ve decided to suspend our cooperation with UNESCO in these fields, and with regards to previous decisions.”
Other politicians, including Knesset members Arieh Eldad (National Union) and Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) also blasted the organization’s decision.
Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to UNESCO’s decision on Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of Patriarchs by saying that “the attempt to disconnect Israel and its heritage is absurd.”
A statement released by Netanyahu’s office said, “It is unfortunate that an organization established in order to promote historic heritage sites around the world is trying, for political reasons, to uproot the connection between Israel and its heritage.”
Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the UNESCO decision which was made last week. “The attempt to detach the people of Israel from its heritage is absurd,” the statement said. “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?”
Earlier this year Israel registered the Hebron shrine as well as a tomb near Jerusalem, believed to be the burial site of the Matriarch Rachel, as national heritage sites.
Both shrines are located in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians want as part of their future state. Palestinians view the additions of the shrines to Israel’s heritage list as a land grab.
“It is regrettable 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,” Netanyahu’s statement said.
“The state of Israel in contrast to its neighbors will continue to preserve freedom of religion at these sites and preserve them for future generations,” he said.
Referring to the structure as the “Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb” in its statement, the UNESCO board voted 44 to one, with 12 abstentions, to reaffirm the site was “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law.”
The UNESCO executive board also expressed “deep concern” over “ongoing Israeli excavations and archaeological works” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s walled, historic Old City.