TEL AVIV – In a strongly worded letter to French President Francois Hollande, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed France’s support for a UNESCO resolution denying Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, a local TV channel reported Saturday.
France issued an apology a few days after the resolution was voted on, but that did not stop Netanyahu from questioning France’s impartiality in the peace initiative it is currently pushing.
The UN cultural body’s resolution in April made mention of “Occupied Palestine” and omitted any mention of historic Jewish ties to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, referring to the flashpoint site only by its Muslim name. It condemned “Israeli aggressions and illegal measures against the freedom of worship and Muslims’ access to their Holy Site Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”
France was among the 33 countries that backed the resolution in the 58-member body, while six countries, including the U.S. and the UK, voted against it.
In his letter, Netanyahu wrote that he was “astounded” by France’s support for “a historic distortion of truth” and “an extremely biased and offensive” resolution.
“The organization trusted with the safekeeping of world history has degraded itself to rewriting a basic and indisputable part of human history,” Netanyahu wrote.
“While we have no illusions as to the UN’s commitment to truth or decency, we were honestly astounded to see our French friends raise their hands in favor of this shameful resolution,” he stated.
He added: “International support for the Palestinian effort to deny Jewish history and to perpetuate the myth of Jewish aggression in the Temple Mount is not just immoral, it is dangerous,” he added.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls issued a statement saying that the UNESCO resolution was “clumsy” and “unfortunate” and should have been avoided.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday in order to persuade Netanyahu to accept France’s push for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu rebuffed Ayrault’s advances, however, saying that following its support of the “outrageous” resolution, Israel would find it difficult see France as an impartial player.
“I told him that the scandalous resolution that was approved by UNESCO, with the support of France, that doesn’t recognize the millennia-long connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount, casts a shadow over the fairness of any summit France is trying to convene,” Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting.
The prime minister also added that Ayrault told him that “this resolution was the result of a misunderstanding and that he will personally see that it doesn’t repeat itself.”
He stressed that a peace deal would only result from direct negotiations between the two sides.
“History shows that it was in this way that we reached peace with Egypt and Jordan,” Netanyahu said. “Any other attempt delays peace and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict, which is the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
In an unrelated topic, Netanyahu also said at the cabinet meeting that he spoke Saturday with Secretary of State John Kerry about Iran’s upcoming Holocaust denial cartoon contest.
“Our problem with Iran,” Netanyahu said, “is not only its aggressive policy in the region, but the values on which it is based – denying the Holocaust, mocking the Holocaust, and preparing another Holocaust. I spoke to Kerry and told him that all of the world’s countries must condemn this.”
Secretary Kerry has yet to announce his support for the French peace initiative or confirm his attendance at the summit to be held in the next few weeks.