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Israel suspended cooperation with UNESCO today, a day after the UN cultural agency adopted a draft resolution that Israel says denies the deep, historic Jewish connection to holy sites in Jerusalem. UNESCO's draft resolution, sponsored by several Arab countries, uses only the Islamic name for a hilltop compound sacred to both Jews and Muslims, which includes the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical temple and the holiest site where Jews can pray. The validated resolution is expected early next week, but the wording is unlikely to change. Israelis and many Jews around the world viewed it as the latest example of an ingrained anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters. The draft resolution, seen by The Associated Press, diminished the links of two important holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City to Judaism. The text refers to the site known by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount only by its Muslim name. The draft resolution refers to the Muslim holy site of Al- Buraq Plaza without quotations, but puts the site's Jewish name, the Western Wall Plaza, in inverted commas. Education Minister Naftali Bennett informed UNESCO of Israel's decision today. "Following the shameful decision by UNESCO members to deny history and ignore thousands of years of Jewish ties to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, I have notified the Israel National Commission for UNESCO to suspend all professional activities with the international organisation," Bennett said. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he was "outraged" by the resolution. "Would UNESCO vote to deny the Christian connection to the Vatican? Or the Muslim connection to Mecca? The UNESCO vote claims that there is no connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall.
In fact, it is the UNESCO vote that has no connection to reality." The spat is the latest in Israel's rocky relations with UNESCO, which it accuses of making decisions out of political considerations. Israel captured east Jerusalem, with sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians claim the territory as part of their future state, and its fate is one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict. Jews refer to the hilltop compound in Jerusalem's Old City as the Temple Mount, site of the two Jewish biblical temples.
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