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Israel Calls For UN Agency to Hold Secret Ballot In Vote On Hebron

A Jewish man walks outside the Patriarchs' Tomb, known in Arabic as the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the the divided West Bank city of Hebron on May 29, 2017
DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV – Israel’s mission to the UN is petitioning the organization’s cultural agency UNESCO to conduct a secret ballot for the vote on whether to list Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, a Jewish holy site, as an endangered world heritage site under the “State of Palestine.”

“There is no doubt that if there is a public ballot, we will lose,” Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Twenty-one countries are set to vote on the resolution on July 7 in Krakow, Poland, many of which are Muslim or Arab countries sure to vote in favor of the resolution. However, at least one country with no diplomatic relations with Israel has indicated that it may vote against it, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. According to Shama-Hacohen, Cuba, Indonesia, Kuwait or Lebanon – four World Heritage Committee members that do not have diplomatic ties with Israel – would oppose the vote if the ballot were secret.

Israel is hoping that a secret ballot will sway the vote and allow for the two-thirds majority needed to block the resolution.

The vote will decide whether the Old City of Hebron, including the Tomb of Patriarchs, will be included on the endangered sites list. The Palestinian Authority sped up the process with claims of “Israeli violations… including vandalism” at the site. Another vote set for July 10 disavowing Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem was added at the last minute.

If the Hebron resolution were to pass, Israel would be censured for setting up security checkpoints in the area or conducting any construction activity.

Earlier in the week, Breitbart Jerusalem reported that Israel banned a UNESCO fact-finding mission from entering Hebron ahead of the vote.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to grant permits to a group of scholars from the International Council on Monuments and Sites.

“On a strategic and principled level, the State of Israel will not take part in and will not legitimize any Palestinian political move under the guise of culture and heritage,” Shama-Hacohen said.

Several Jewish groups have protested against the upcoming vote.

“This is but the latest cynical move by the Palestinians to erase Jewish history by rebranding Judaism’s holiest sites, including the Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, as Muslim,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement last week.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations told UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a letter that the Palestinian claims regarding Hebron are “replete with false information and baseless charges” and called on her to prevent the vote from taking place.

“This is the latest in a series of unfounded charges and accusations meant to denigrate and distort Israel’s stewardship of holy sites,” the group said in a statement.

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