Italian prime minister: UNESCO vote on Jerusalem ‘shocking’

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — In a further twist in the fallout over the controversial vote on Jerusalem by UNESCO, Italy’s prime minister said Rome may oppose future resolutions ignoring Jewish ties to the city’s holy places.

Matteo Renzi during a radio interview Friday with the RTL broadcaster called the UNESCO draft resolution passed Oct. 13 “incomprehensible, unacceptable and wrong.” The draft refers to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall mostly by their Muslim names.

He also said it was “a shocking story” and that Italy will re-examine its position on the issue ahead of future votes.

Italy was among the 26 countries that abstained in the vote. Nineteen countries voted in favor, including Russia and China, with only six opposed — the United States and five EU member states, including Britain.

But the draft resolution, which was submitted by seven Arab countries at the initiative of the Palestinian Authority, triggered an unprecedented pushback after UNESCO passed similar resolutions in the past.

As Israel ridiculed the text and held it up as an example of Palestinian intransigence, lawmakers from many countries and representatives of Jewish and Christian groups noted their displeasure. Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, published a statement seen as condemning the vote.

Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia who has friendly ties with President Vladimir Putin and his government, harshly criticized that government’s support for the resolution.

“It is very strange that Russia, which has consistently fought all kinds of historic falsification, this time supported a blatant falsification of history,” Lazar, an Italy native, wrote in a statement following the vote.

His words were likely a reference to acrimonious debates between Russia and former Eastern bloc countries about culpability in alleged and proven war crimes, among other atrocities, during the 20th century.

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