(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.
In a sign that European countries may be increasing their support for Israel’s battle against UNESCO’s Jerusalem resolutions, Italy announced on Friday that it would vote against such texts in the future.
These resolutions are “incomprehensible, unacceptable and wrong,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told an Italian Radio station during a visit to Brussels. Earlier this week he was in Washington, where he was honored with a state dinner at the White House.
Renzi’s decision increases to seven the small bloc of six-countries that have opposed these resolutions.
Ultimately, if Israel plans to defeat such resolutions it will need countries to follow Italy’s lead, rather than Mexico’s, which made headlines earlier this week when it withdrew its support from the Jerusalem text.
Mexico, however, doesn’t plan to oppose the measure, intending instead to take the neutral position of abstaining. Such abstentions help Israel secure a moral victory, but ultimately do not help it defeat such Jerusalem resolutions which ignore Jewish and Christian ties to Temple Mount, referring to it solely by its Muslim name of Al Haram Al Sharif.
“We warmly congratulate the Italian government and the Italian Prime Minster for this useful statement,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said.
“We hope Italy guides the way for other European countries and countries all over the world,” Nachshon said.
Israel, however, has little time to bask in the victory of securing Italian support, because the 21-member World Heritage Committee is set to vote next week on a resolution to reaffirm the placement of Jerusalem’s Old City on the list of World Heritage in Danger.
The vote is routine, but the text — much like the one that was approved Tuesday by UNESCO’s 58-member Executive Board — is expected to focus almost exclusively on Muslim terms for the area.
Italy’s abstention on that vote angered the country’s Jewish community which published letters in the media, took to social media and worked along with Israel’s embassy in Rome to change the countries stance.
Italy, however is not one of the 21 nations that make up the World Heritage Committee.
But Israel’s is hopeful that its statement might have an impact on the committee whose members are: Angola, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korean, Tunisia, Turkey, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
Since 2015, the Palestinian Authority has pushed to change the language by which UNESCO speaks of Jerusalem and the holy sites, so that they are referred to almost exclusively by their Muslim names.
As part of that drive the PA, or members of the UN’s Arab group submits Jerusalem resolution to UNESCO at every possible opportunity.