TEL AVIV – U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed Friday’s decision by UNESCO to list the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the Old City of Hebron as an “endangered World Heritage site” under the “State of Palestine,” saying it was an “affront to history” that was “tragic on several levels.”
The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the believed resting place of biblical patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. Rachel is believed to be buried in Bethlehem. The Tomb is considered the second holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount.
In a vote that took place in Krakow, Poland, the UN’s cultural agency passed the resolution by 12 votes to three with six abstentions.
“The UNESCO vote on Hebron is tragic on several levels. It represents an affront to history,” Haley said in a statement. “It undermines the trust that is needed for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be successful. And it further discredits an already highly questionable UN agency. Today’s vote does no one any good and causes much harm.”
At the behest of Poland, Croatia and Jamaica, the voting took place in secret – a move that was vociferously opposed by other member states.
Haley said that the anti-Israel vote has forced the U.S. to reevaluate “its continued engagement at UNESCO.”
The vote was the second anti-Israel measure at the UN agency in a week. A few days prior, the World Heritage Committee passed a resolution denying Israeli claims to the Old City of Jerusalem.
In 2011, the U.S. cut funds to UNESCO after it accepted the “State of Palestine” as a member state. While the U.S. remains on the 58-member UNESCO Executive Board, it no longer has voting rights in its General Conference.
Israeli leaders slammed the move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “another delusional UNESCO decision” and ordered that another $1 million be cut from Israel’s funding to the UN and instead be put towards establishing a museum aimed at showcasing Hebron’s Jewish history.
Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, said it was “shameful and offensive … an ugly display of discrimination, and an act of aggression against the Jewish people.”
President Reuven Rivlin accused UNESCO of spreading “anti-Jewish lies.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said UNESCO “denies history and distorts reality, knowingly serving those attempting to erase the Jewish state.”