JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Wednesday recalled its ambassador to UNESCO for consultations after the U.N. culture body adopted a second resolution in two weeks that Israeli leaders said ignored Judaism's connection with one of Jerusalem's holiest sites.
The action came the same day the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a 7th century B.C. papyrus fragment which contained writing in paleo-Hebrew on it. The inscription was the earliest of its kind to mention Jerusalem as the location of the Jewish king during the First Temple period. The writing predates the oldest Dead Sea Scrolls.
But on Wednesday, according to a text provided by Palestinian officials, the resolution adopted by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in Paris referred to the compound – revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) – only as a "Muslim holy site of worship," just as a similar motion did on Oct. 13.
The latest vote, like the first, deals with the safeguarding of the city's religious heritage.
"The theater of the absurd continues," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. "We'll decide what to do, what our next steps will be, vis a vis this organization."
UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, is regarded by many Israelis as hostile. Arab members of UNESCO and their supporters frequently condemn Israel.
At the Paris meeting, Israeli ambassador Carmel Shama Hacohen dropped a copy of the resolution into a trash bin.
"This is history denial and history will render this embarrassing decision as meaningless as previous ones," Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, Israel lashed out at UNESCO for renewing a similar resolution that condemned it for restricting Muslim access to the site, in a part of Jerusalem captured by Israeli forces in a 1967 war.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its capital, a position that is not recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement that the aim of the UNESCO resolutions was to protect the religious rights of all three major monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, at Jerusalem's holy sites.
*Reporting by Jeffrey Heller