Last week, UNESCO approved Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity as a World Heritage Site. As if on cue, both Israel and the United States decried the UN body’s decision. In a statement, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office said:
This proves that UNESCO is motivated by political considerations rather than cultural considerations. Instead of taking steps to advance peace, the Palestinians are acting unilaterally in ways that only make peace more distant.
The US Ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, said in a statement that the US is “profoundly disappointed,” and indicated that in reaching its decision, UNESCO had allowed itself to be politicized.
By which I mean: Anything that anyone does in Israel or the Palestinian territories has political ramifications.
The current Israeli and American outcry centers on the fact that UNESCO agreed to a Palestinian request to use emergency procedures to render the Bethlehem decision quickly, despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much of an emergency, an indication (they maintain) that the decision is political in nature—to which I can only say: But of course. Whenever any world body responds positively to any Palestinian request, it’s saying: “We see you.” And Israel really doesn’t like that. And because Israel doesn’t like it, neither does the US. And that’s all very, very political.
It could be argued that taking a stand against the UN recognizing the birthplace of Jesus is kind of bone-headed. That Israel could have totally said something like “The birthplace of Jesus is a site revered by millions of Christians around the world, and we agree that it must be protected. We look forward to working with UNESCO on this vital task,” and in so doing, won the hearts and minds of many, not to mention taking the sting out of the Palestinians’ miniscule victory.
But leaving that aside (because really, what am I expecting, miracles?), here’s some news that the AFP reported yesterday about another set of actions there are political and unilateral and “only make peace more distant,” also in the Bethlehem area:
Israel will resume construction of its controversial West Bank barrier within the next few weeks after a five-year delay….
…Work will initially resume around the group of settlements near Bethlehem known as Gush Etzion.
The following year, work will resume around Maale Adumim, a settlement east of Jerusalem that is one of the biggest in the West Bank.
The Palestinians says the barrier is a land grab, pointing out that when complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the West Bank.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued a non-binding resolution calling for those parts of the barrier inside the West Bank to be torn down and for further construction in the territory to cease.
Israel has not complied with the ICJ ruling.
In the first case, the Palestinian leadership is working with the international community in a kind of jury-rigged, work-around effort to achieve that which Israel has long maintained that it wants: A two-state resolution. The Palestinians are working to create Palestine.
In the latter case, Israel is working against the international community and taking action, which may well make a two-state resolution impossible—action that, to my mind, is intended to make a two-state resolution impossible.
I know which unilateral action frightens me more.