Israel's premier said Friday he would host a lecture on Jewish history for UN staff, following a resolution of the organisation's cultural body "denying" Jewish ties to Jerusalem's holiest site.
UNESCO’s executive board last month adopted a resolution condemning “Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif,” failing to mention the site’s Jewish name of the Temple Mount.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had attacked the “absurd” resolution which “ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where the two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years”.
On Friday, he reiterated that he was “shocked” UNESCO would adopt “a decision denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site”.
“That is why today I am announcing a seminar on Jewish history for all UN personnel in Israel,” he said in a statement.
“I will personally host the lecture at the prime minister’s Office,” said Netanyahu, the son of a historian, noting that it will be delivered by a “leading scholar of Jewish history”.
Diplomats will also be invited, “including of countries which voted for this outrageous decision”, Netanyahu said of the resolution on “Occupied Palestine” presented by several Arab states.
After Israel’s reaction to the resolution, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova issued a statement stressing that “Jerusalem is a Holy Land of the three monotheistic religions, a place of dialogue for all Jewish, Christian and Muslim people”.
Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said that denying the Jewish people’s connection to the site “isn’t only ahistorical. It actually makes peace harder to achieve.”
“Peace is forged through respect and understanding. This shows neither,” Keyes said.
The compound in east Jerusalem, which was taken by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move not recognised internationally, has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It has seen frequent clashes over fears that Israel is planning to change the rules which currently state that Muslims can pray there, while Jews can only visit.
Netanyahu denies seeking to change the status quo.
Biblical tradition says the first and second Jewish temples were at the site before being destroyed by the Babylonians and Romans respectively.