Israel cancels UNESCO visit, cites politics by Palestinians

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli officials canceled a UNESCO inspection of sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, saying the Palestinians had politicized the agency’s visit.

The visit, to which Israel agreed last month, was scheduled for Monday.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, called the visit by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization a “probe [of] the occupation measures,” Reuters reported.

In addition, P.A. officials had arranged to take the UNESCO delegation on the Temple Mount, Haaretz reported, despite  previous agreements that it would not visit the site or deal with issues surrounding the Mughrabi Gate Bridge and the Western Wall.

It would have been UNESCO’s first mission to Jerusalem since 2004. Israel had allowed the visit in exchange for the postponing of five Palestinian-sponsored U.N. resolutions critical of Israel.

The Paris-based UNESCO accepted the P.A. as a full member in 2011 — the only United Nations agency to do so. The United States cut UNESCO funding in the wake of the vote and Israel severed contact with the organization.

 

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