Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Jordan bashes Israel at UN for construction it approved - Australia abstains

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Jerusalem has always been used as a pretext for conspiracy theories and propaganda campaigns against Israel in the Arab world. A perennial claim throughout the Arab-Israel conflict is that something Israel is doing presages the destruction of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

In a classic example, Jordan succeeded in getting the permanent anti-Israel majority at the UN to condemn Israel for rebuilding a ramp in the Old City that collapsed six years ago. Yet Jordan had previously signed an agreement with Israel agreeing to replace the wooden bridge that had been installed after the original earthen ramp collapsed.

The plan by Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee to begin removing a temporary bridge that links the Western Wall Plaza to the al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount platform and replace it with a permanent structure, was halted last week after Jordan successfully petitioned UNESCO to intervene.

Fellow UNESCO committee members Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Cambodia and Mali co-sponsored the Jordanian petition.

Despite expressing reservations over a UNESCO World Heritage Committee resolution that censured Israel over its plans to rebuild the Mughrabi Bridge in Jerusalem's Old City, Australia abstained from voting on the issue on June 27.

The Jordanian move has sparked a diplomatic row with Israel.

Jordan claimed it only agreed to Israel's plans under US pressure.

"The Jordanians lied to us and to the Americans in an unbelievable way... The most astonishing thing is they don't even mention the agreement between Israel and Jordan," Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, told Ynetnews.

According to a Jordan News Agency report, the committee also voted in favour of adding to the World Heritage List the Mughrabi Gate at the top of the bridge.

The Jordanian Times reports that the committee accepted Jordan's blueprints for the "renovation of the old bridge".

According to Ynetnews, Australia, Switzerland, Mexico and Brazil expressed verbal reservations about the strong anti-Israel language in the resolution, but did not oppose its passage. The four along with Sweden and Estonia, wanted the petition debated but were overruled.

Barkan attempted to address the 21-member committee but Egypt objected and he was denied the floor, Ynetnews reported.

Barkan told Haaretz that UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova had indicated earlier this year that resolutions not adopted by unanimous vote would not be acted on.

Barkan expressed the view that the countries that had voiced unease over the resolution but not voted against it did so out of "concern" for their relations with Arab countries.

Meanwhile, the committee rejected an application by the Palestinian Authority for the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to receive world heritage listing. UNESCO rejected the nomination bid on the grounds that Palestine was not a sovereign state.

- Allon Lee

 

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