Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 31) by Itamar Eichner -- UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee yesterday decided to call on Israel to stop immediately all archaeological excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem and not carry out its plan to demolish the temporary bridge to the Mughrabi Gate, linking the Western Wall to the Temple Mount, and to build a new bridge in its stead.
The decision was initiated by Jordan along with three other Arab states: Egypt, Bahrain and Iraq. The decision was passed by a consensus of all the 21 members on the committee. Four countries—Australia, Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico—expressed sharp reservation to the anti-Israel content in the decision, but did not vote against. These countries, along with Estonia and Sweden, also demanded to postpone the debate on the charged subject, but their demand was denied by a majority. The Israeli ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, who has the position of observer, asked to speak and to present Israel’s positions against the Jordanian document—but the Egyptians refused, and the Israeli ambassador was not given permission to speak.
Along with the harsh condemnation of Israel and the demand to stop immediately all archaeological excavations in the Old City, including the Western Wall, the committee also called to send a delegation to Israel on behalf of UNESCO to ensure that the work stop. Israel announced that it would not let such a delegation enter.
Political officials in Israel reacted angrily to Jordan’s conduct and said that it had broken an explicit agreement signed last week on the demolition next week of the temporary bridge that is in danger of collapse. In the agreement, Jordan promised not to demand a condemnation of Israel in UNESCO.
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