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PA, Arab states reportedly to withdraw UNESCO resolutions criticizing Israel

Oct. 8, 2017 2:11 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 8, 2017 8:18 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A number of Arab states headed by Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are reportedly expected to withdraw two resolutions critical of Israel’s policies in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the besieged Gaza Strip at the UNESCO executive board session in Paris this week, following an Israeli and US-led diplomatic campaign, according to Israeli media reports.

The executive board of the UN’s cultural agency had been expected to vote on two resolutions condemning Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory on Friday, but according to Israel’s ambassador to the UN agency, Carmel Shama Hacohen, it is likely that the board will agree to delay the issue for six months, Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported.

This would be the first time since April 2013 that resolutions were not presented on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, according to Israeli news daily Haaretz.

“Time will tell whether this is a tactical change or a new approach. If it is, it is significant progress toward wiping the table clean from the incitement and politicization against us in the organization,” Shama Hacohen was quoted as saying, adding: “It could be a significant step toward the elimination of these proposals altogether.”

Haaretz cited a senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry as saying that the decision to withdraw the resolutions was made following “quiet diplomatic talks” last week between Shama Hacohen, UNESCO committee chairman Michael Worbs, and Jordanian ambassador to UNESCO Makram Queisi.

The senior official reportedly said that a number of Western countries were also involved in the talks, primarily the United States. According to Haaretz, Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s adviser on Israel, was “personally involved.”

Instead of holding a vote on the two resolutions, Worbs will reportedly submit two proposals -- expected to to be passed unanimously -- to delay the vote by six months, according to Times of Israel. The resolutions postponing the two texts is set to be voted on Wednesday.

“The resolutions are expected to pass unanimously -- unless a country breaks its commitment in the last moment,” Shama Hacohen told The Times of Israel on Saturday.

Shama Hacohen also reportedly said that despite the understandings, he was still prepared for the possibility of a vote on a resolution critical of Israel. “Until I hear the sound of the chairman’s gavel, I won’t believe this is happening, and from my point of view I’ll write two speeches in response,” he said.

Over the past four years, and more so in the last two years, the UNESCO institutions have held votes every few months on resolutions that criticized the Israeli government’s policies against Palestinians.

Israel has repeatedly accused the United Nations and its respective bodies of being “anti-Israel” for its stances against the now half-century occupation of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

The actions of UNESCO have spurred a determined Israeli-American campaign to delegitimize it and other UN agencies, such as UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Since the US Donald Trump Administration’s advent to power, and with the help of his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, Washington and Israel have waged a war against the UN, using intimidation and the threats of withholding funds.
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