UNESCO shelves anti-Israel resolutions for six months

“It shows … that dialogue is still possible and it can happen here in UNESCO,” claimed the agency’s director-general.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a victory for the power of diplomacy, the Executive Board of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science, and Culture (UNESCO) agreed Thursday to postpone a vote on two anti-Israel resolutions at least until the next meeting of the board in half a year. Over a dozen Arab and Muslim states joined the rest of the 58-member board, including Israel, making the decision unanimous.

The decision was applauded by UNESCO’s new Director-General, Audrey Azoulay. “It is a very important day for UNESCO and its executive board,” she said. “And I welcome the spirit of dialogue and responsibility that was shown today in the discussions regarding the Middle East, where for once — and it’s been a long time since it has happened – we’ve been able to reach a consensus without vote on the sensitive issues.”

Thanking the Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, American and EU delegations for actively supporting the dialogue, Azoulay also hoped that this rare agreement would be “a moment on which we can build” to restore “peace, dialogue, and cooperation” on UNESCO’s mandate. This, she stressed, was to work together for the advancement of science, culture, education and freedom of expression.

This was perhaps a reference to the repeated use of an organization ostensibly dedicated to areas of interest outside of government policy to make one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions that had much more to do with politics than culture.

Certainly, the resolution on Jerusalem that was just avoided fit into this category, as indicated by its title alone: “Occupied Palestine.” It had also called for the implementation of past UN resolutions on Israel that were extremely negative, including the one that condemned the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Resolution 2334 from December 2016 that called Israeli settlements a violation of international law.

Israel’s representative to the board, Carmel Shama-Cohen, made sure to thank the Palestinian Authority and Jordan for “their positive and constructive approach” to the negotiations. He also made it clear that his appreciation of the outcome did not detract from Israel’s firm opinion that politics should play no role in this particular international body.

“Taking into consideration the difficult situation on the ground in our region and along some of our borders, the consensus today is a living proof that with good will from all sides we can prevent political clashes in this organization and we can avoid dealing with issues that should be dealt with elsewhere, if at all,” he said.

It should be recalled that both Israel and the United States have declared that they will be leaving UNESCO over its preoccupation with Israel instead of its stated mandate.