TEL AVIV – In the latest altercation between the United Nations and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter’s offer to provide UN diplomats with history lessons on Jewish ties to the Temple Mount was swiftly declined by a UN official.
Following a UNESCO resolution in which Jewish connections to the Temple Mount were ignored, Netanyahu offered to personally host a “seminar on Jewish history for all UN personnel in Israel.”
In addition to referring to Israel only as the “occupying power,” the UN’s cultural body condemned supposed Israeli “aggressions” against Muslims at the flashpoint holy site, which was exclusively referred to by its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif.
“Two weeks ago, I was shocked to hear that UNESCO adopted a decision denying any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, our holiest site. It is hard to believe that anyone, let alone an organization tasked with preserving history, could deny this link, which spans thousands of years,” Netanyahu posted on his Facebook page.
He added that the lecture, which would be delivered by a leading scholar on Jewish history, would “be free to all UN staff and diplomats, including of countries which voted for this outrageous decision.”
Netanyahu’s offer, however, antagonized the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov.
“If someone wants to issue invitations they should be for Paris and addressed to the ambassadors of the member-states of UNESCO there,” he said in a statement.
“UN staff in Jerusalem know the history of the region, its people, and religions all too well.”
Last month, Netanyahu blasted the “absurd” resolution for expunging Judaism’s connection 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.”
The prime minister’s newly appointed spokesman, David Keyes, said the offer was a serious invitation and the seminar would take place next week.
“I think I would come and hear what is going to happen,” he said. “If they don’t come, I think that would be more illuminating than anything. It is an opportunity. The truth should not be controversial, denying the truth should be controversial.”
Denying the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount, which goes back thousands of years, is not only ahistorical, Keyes said, “it actually makes peace harder to achieve.”
“Peace is forged through respect and understanding,” he said. “This shows neither respect for history nor an understanding of the Jewish people. It is an outrageous distortion of basic fact. I hope many diplomats will attend the seminar, because everyone should hear the truth.”
The resolution was approved by 33 states, including EU members France, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. Seventeen countries abstained while six voted against, including the United States, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and the UK.