In a statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry calls the proposal “an attempt to distort history and blur the connection between the Jewish people and its holiest place and to create a false reality”.
The Western Wall is one of the only remnants of a retaining wall built around the Jewish Second Temple, which was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Jews, who are forbidden from praying on the Temple Mount, have made the Western Wall into a shrine and it is considered Judaism’s holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray.
According to Muslim tradition, the site is also where Mohammed tied the winged animal Buraq he rode on the night he ascended to heaven. Temple Mount is the third holiest site in Islam.
The proposal was submitted to UNESCO by six Muslim countries on behalf of the Palestinians – Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. The Palestinians are not members of the body’s executive council, and therefore rely on one of the 58 member states to submit the proposal.
The proposal also calls for the international community to condemn Israel for urging “its citizens to bear arms in light of recent terror wave,” as well as for recent actions by the state and the IDF in Jerusalem. The document, a copy of which was obtained by Ynet, refers to Jerusalem as “the occupied capital of Palestine”.
In addition, the Palestinians seek condemnation of ongoing Israeli archaeological excavations near the Temple Mount and the Old City in Jerusalem, as well as for the “aggression and illegal measures taken against the freedom of worship and access of Muslims to Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s attempts to break the status quo since 1967”.
The proposal is largely expected to pass, as most of UNESCO’s 58 members support the Palestinian cause, and there is a Muslim and Arab majority on UNESCO’s executive council.
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has denounced the Palestinian bid as a “shameful and deceitful Palestinian attempt to rewrite history”.
She continued: “The historical connection between the people of Israel to their land is stronger than any provocative Palestinian proposal, and we will continue to present the simple basic truth that we are the sovereign in our land against their lies”.