The Jewish Voice
Regev Calls For Eviction of UNESCO From Compound in J’slm
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev submitted a formal demand to the cabinet last Wednesday to shut down the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) compound in Jerusalem following the controversial resolution that it passed, which denied Israeli sovereignty over the city.
“Ben-Gurion used to say ‘Umm Shmum’ [to express Israel’s contempt for the UN],” explained Minister Regev prior to Wednesday’s cabinet meeting. “And on that note I will reiterate that the UN headquarters situated in Armon Hanatziv since the Six-Day War in 1967 was established for one specific mission, to monitor peace between the states.”
“Today, we do not need any supervision since we have peace with Egypt and peace with Jordan so this mission has been over for a long time,” claimed Regev. “All the UN does now is support Palestinian organizations against the State of Israel so the government should make them leave the area and return the land to state use.”
On Israel’s 69th Independence Day on Tuesday, the UNESCO executive board voted on a new anti-Israel resolution denying Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. A total of 22 states among the 58-member board voted in favor of the resolution, 10 voted against, 23 abstained, and three were absent.
Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen rejected Regev’s call to evict UNESCO from the office. He warned Israel to carefully weigh its response to the UNESCO resolution and to consult with the state’s allies abroad.
The compound in question, located in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in East Talpiot, was originally leased to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) rent-free to oversee the ceasefire with Jordan following the 1967 Six-Day War. The United Nations agencies UNTSO and UNESCO are currently operating in the compound alongside the office of UN envoy to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov.
The area is already the subject of a legal battle over the UN’s construction projects inside the compound. Last month, the legal organization Regavim filed a petition in the Jerusalem Dis-
trict Court against the UN, the Jerusalem Municipality, and the Israel Lands Authority following the revelation of extensive illegal construction and a land-grab being carried out by the UN inside the compound.
In its petition, Regavim documented the construction of illegal office buildings and storage facilities in the compound in addition to work being carried out illegally on a historic building from 1929. Other violations included the operation of an illegal gas station on site and the seizure of other lands for usage outside of their allotted area.
After a preliminary tour of the site by Foreign Ministry representatives, the state asked the UN for permission to return for a more extensive inspection to verify Regavim’s accusations.
“This is nonsense,” Regavim Spokesman Josh Hasten told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “Why should the Israeli authorities wait and ask for the UN’s permission when the property is state-owned? If Israel thinks something illegal is going on, the state is allowed by law to go in and investigate.”
Regavim Director of Policy and Knesset Affairs Meir Deutsch further argued that the UN has forgotten that it is in Jerusalem as a guest of the state and that is utilizing property of the state. “Once the tenant starts behaving like the landlord, that is a sign that it’s time to find another tenant,” Deutsch said. “That’s what true independence looks like.”