Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on UNESCO Encouraging

April 24, 2013

J Street welcomes the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority brokered by the international community that will allow UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, to resume its work in Jerusalem, as a small but encouraging step forward.

The agreement demonstrates the early impact of Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent engagement in the region. It shows that with pragmatism and US leadership, Israelis and Palestinians can advance mutually beneficial compromises. The parties should invoke that same spirit to re-engage in active diplomacy to reach a two-state solution and the United States should follow this success by building on the momentum it engenders.

The parties agreed to allow three experts from UNESCO to visit Jerusalem next month to inspect crucial parts of the city’s rich archeological and historical legacy, including the walls of the Old City. The experts need to find a way to allow visitors to ascend to the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, from the area of the Western Wall.

The agreement was brokered by the United States and Russia with the help of Jordan, Brazil and the director general of UNESCO. Under the deal, the Palestinians agreed to postpone five resolutions criticizing Israel that it had intended to present to the agency.

UNESCO recognized Palestine as a state in 2011. The United States responded by cutting off its annual contribution, which amounts to 22 percent of the agency’s budget. This has endangered and, in some cases, ended important programs that help people around the world, including in the Middle East and the Americas.