Likud lawmaker Dan Illouz has sent a letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay asking her to prevent ancient Jericho from being listed as a city in the “State of Palestine.”
Illouz, a member of the Knesset’s Land of Israel Caucus, wrote the letter in response to what he said was the intention of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to vote in favor of the move at its 45th session, scheduled to be held in Riyadh on Sept. 10-25.
“The Palestinian Authority works systematically to erase all ties of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel,” Illouz wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
A decision to assign Jericho to “Palestine” would “constitute a blatant interference by UNESCO in a conflict in which it is not its role to intervene. Jericho is first and foremost a city of biblical significance. Blurring this fact is an insult to millions of Jews and Christians all over the world. It is our duty to stop the P.A.’s subversion and insist on our right to our land,” the MK continued.
The Land of Israel Caucus, Regavim and Binyamin region leaders held an “emergency tour” of biblical Jericho on Sunday.
“We commend UNESCO for recognizing the historical significance of
ancient Jericho. Indeed, its biblical context should be world-renowned,” said Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Gantz, who led the tour.
“This must be done within the framework of the truth. I call upon the organization to carefully consider this move and to recognize this important site for what it is—the first city conquered by the Jewish nation entering the Land of Israel, and the site of many historic biblical events. It has always been significant for the people of Israel, our Jewish heritage and for everyone who reads the Bible and knows its history,” said Gantz.
Lawmakers Limor Son Har-Melech (Otzma Yehudit Party) and Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party) attended the tour, in addition to Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu, National Missions Minister Orit Strock and Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman.
Rothman, who together with Son Har-Melech leads the Land of Israel Caucus, accused the P.A. of spearheading a terrorist campaign aimed at “eradicating and denying history.”
“There is no doubt that UNESCO, which was created in order to protect and preserve world heritage sites and the cultural artifacts of the human race, cannot reward this sort of terrorism,” said Rothman.
Illouz in his letter also cites previous UNESCO decisions related to Hebron and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that have damaged ties between Israel and the U.N. agency.
The Biden administration in June decided to rejoin UNESCO four years after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agency due to its anti-Israel bias.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu filed notice in October 2017 that Israel would withdraw its membership in the organization at the same time as the United States.
In a 2016 resolution, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee registered the Tomb of the Patriarchs, located in Hebron, in the name of the “State of Palestine” on its “List of World Heritage in Danger.”
UNESCO passed 47 resolutions in 2009-2014, 46 of which were directed against Israel and one of which criticized Syria.