Israel has accused UNESCO of listing a prehistoric ruin near the West Bank city of Jericho as a World Heritage Site, calling the decision a “cynical” ploy by the Palestinians to politicize the international body.
“UNESCO’s recent decision on the ruins of Jericho is yet another example of the Palestinians’ ongoing effort to erase Jewish history and take advantage of the UN’s crooked political structure,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News Digital UN.
“Jericho was the point of entry of the Israelite people into the Land of Israel,” he continued. “Any denial of this fact is shameful and wrong and nothing will change the truth.”
“Israel does not recognize or accept UNESCO’s distorted decision and will continue to fight against its legitimacy,” he stressed.
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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has voted to declare the ruins outside the city, known as Tell es-Sultan or “Ancient Jericho”, as a cultural heritage site. The group clarified that its statement does not apply to Jericho in its capacity as a Jewish or Christian historical site. Instead, it recognizes the prehistoric site.
Israel’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Sunday shortly after the vote, announcing plans to work with allies and reverse what it called a “crooked” decision.
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The Palestinian Authority, recognized a decade ago by the United Nations as a non-member observer, welcomed Tel es-Sultan’s designation.
Israel and the United States withdrew from UNESCO in 2019 during the Trump administration amid concerns about anti-Israel bias, including the designation of Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. The committee also granted membership to the Palestinians in 2011.
President Biden made it a priority to rejoin UNESCO soon after taking office, completing the process by July 2023. The Biden administration was concerned that in its absence, China had gained a strong leadership role in the organization, which it used to strengthen its image and to expand the influence of soft power.
The modern city of Jericho is a major attraction for tourism in the Palestinian territories due to its historical sites and proximity to the Dead Sea. In 2021, the Palestinian Authority unveiled major renovations to one of the largest mosaics in the Middle East, in a Jericho palace dating back to the 8th century.
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Tell es-Sultan, an oval mound, contains evidence of one of the earliest known human villages and an important Bronze Age city dating from 2600 BC. It is about 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) from the ruins of the first city. Jericho, which contains ruins important to Jewish history, including a synagogue dating from the first century BC.
UNESCO was co-founded by the US after the Second World War to build peace through international cooperation in education, science and culture and to protect world heritage sites.
Anders Hagstrom of Fox News Digital and The Associated Press contributed to this report.