Saying the Jewish people has no connection to Jerusalem is like saying the “sun creates darkness,” Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.
Netanyahu spoke to Renzi to thank him for a letter he wrote saying that Italy’s abstention in the recent UNESCO vote on a resolution expunging any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount was a mistake that would not be repeated.
According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, Renzi said that Italy will try to influence other European countries to vote against these types of anti-Israel resolutions in the future.
Italy was one of six EU countries that abstained on the resolution, while another five – Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia and Lithuania – voted against.
Netanyahu told Renzi there are “limits even to the theater of the absurd,” and that countries that respect themselves and the truth should not support it.
“This is not a question of politics, but of historical facts,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu appreciated the leadership Italy was demonstrating, as part of the positive process of changing the pattern of automatic votes against Israel in international forums. The change in the voting patterns in UN institutions will take a number of years and will include disappointments, the statement said, but these changes have begun.
Renzi told an Italian Radio station last week that resolutions like the UNESCO ones are “incomprehensible, unacceptable and wrong.”
Ultimately, however, if Israel plans to defeat similar resolutions in the future, it will need more countries like Italy to not only abstain, but rather vote against. Mexico, for instance, made headlines last week when it withdrew its support from the Jerusalem text, but made clear it would abstain in the future, rather than vote against.
While such abstentions help Israel secure a moral victory, they ultimately do not help it defeat these resolutions. A similar type of anti-Israel resolution – this one to reaffirm the placement of Jerusalem’s Old City on a list of World Heritage Sites in danger – will come before UNESCO’s 21-member World Heritage Committee when it meets from Monday to Wednesday this week.
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