​How TZ helped soften Unesco resolution in favour of Israel

Palestinian ambassador to Unesco Elias Sanbar (left) and Jordanian ambassador to Unesco Makram Mustafa Queisi, address the media after a resolution was passed by secret ballot at its headquarters in Paris, France, Wednesday, October 26, 2016. PHOTO | AGENCY By Citizen Reporter

Unesco’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) last Wednesday approved a resolution on the status of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania was instrumental in helping the Israel to thwart the harsher Unesco resolution that sought to deny the Jewish state any historical ties to the Temple Mount.

Unesco’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) last Wednesday approved a resolution on the status of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.
The resolution was part of Unesco’s sustained efforts to try to reaffirm Jerusalem’s placement on the list of endangered World Heritage Sites. But the sensitivities brought about by the contested status of East Jerusalem have always complicated matters.
Tanzania and Croatia helped Israel get a less harsh deal than expected when they insisted on a closed ballot as opposed to the voting by consensus as proposed by Palestine and Jordan.
The move is a departure of a long held Tanzania’s policy of throwing its diplomatic weight behind the Palestine Authority culminating in allowing the Authority open its embassy in Dar es Salaam. In fact Tanzania was the first African country to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. This caused a rapture of diplomatic relatiosn with Israelis who closed down their embassy after Tanzania’s recognition of the PLO. The Israelis re regarded PLO as a terrorist organisation.
Efforts to get a comment from the minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation Dr Augustine Mahiga proved futile. The telephone call and an SMS to his mobile phone went unanswered yesterday.
How it happened
A few days before the Wednesday Paris meeting the Palestinian Authority and Jordan had warned that they would strengthen the Muslim claims to the site in the resolution, unless there were a consensus vote on the existing text, which was a softer version than the one the WHC approved last year. Unesco’s 58-member executive board had also approved, earlier this month, a harsher version of the one voted for on Wednesday.
Israel knew it would lose the vote on the resolution, which speaks of “occupying powers” on East Jerusalem and mentions the Temple Mount only by its Arabic name. But the Jewish state sought to soften the resolution and reduce the support of the WHC members on the resolution, which it succeeded thanks to Tanzania and Croatia.
“Israel allowed Palestine Authority and Jordan] to believe they had the consensus support. Part of that strategy was the release of statements to the media (days before the vote) about how Israel expected a major loss at the WHC meeting in Paris,” reads an account of the meeting published by the Jerusalem Post at the weekend.
“Assuming a consensus support, the Palestinians and the Jordanians submitted the softer version of the resolution for a vote. It was only until the meeting opened, and Tanzania and Croatia called for a secret ballot, that the Palestinians and the Jordanians suddenly understood that events would not go as planned,” the Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli ambassador to the Unesco Carmel Shama-Hacohen, as saying.
“We succeeded in surprising them [the Palestinians and the Arab states] at the last minute. I want to issue a special thanks to two brave nations, Croatia and Tanzania, that lay on the fence for Israel and publicly asked for a vote, [and] stood against the wishes of the Arab world,” Shama-Hacohen told the Jerusalem Post.
At the end the resolution was passed by the World Heritage Committee’s 21 member countries with only 10 countries voting for it (Arab states along with Cuba and Vietnam), two countries were against, eight abstained and one was absent. Neither Israel, the US nor Palestine are on the World Heritage Committee, which means they were not allowed to vote.
The less harsh resolution
Among the critical differences was the reinstatement of the Jewish terms of reference for the Western Wall, which in past resolutions had been in quotation marks or parentheses, with the text referring to the holy Jewish site only by its Muslim name, the Buraq Wall.
There were also fewer references to the Temple Mount’s Muslim name of al-Haram al-Sharif, and only one statement that it is a Muslim holy site of worship, according to the Israeli newspaper. Muslims refer to it as al-Haram al-Sharif.
The 2016 WHC text had only one reference of Israeli as an “occupation” authority as opposed to 10 references in the 2015 text to Israel as an “occupying power.” These small “victories” are always seen significant in the diplomatic world, experts in foreign relations say.

Tanzania was elected to the WHC in 2015 for a four year stint. Croatia, which was elected in 2013 ends its term in 2017. A total of 21 countries are usually elected for a four year stint to the WHC to represent the 192 state parties that adhere to the World Heritage Convention.

Jerusalem Old City at centre of dispute

The Old City, home to sensitive holy sites, lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is situated in east Jerusalem — the area of the holy city captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital, while Israel has annexed the area and made it part of its capital. While Israel controls the area, its annexation is not internationally recognized. Although Israel says it protects sites holy to all religions, the Palestinians have accused Israel of trying to “Judaize” the Old City through archaeological digs and tourism projects.

Via Citizen


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