The Israeli Foreign Ministry has lashed out at the UN for its “politicized” decision to recognize a prehistoric ruin in the West Bank as part of the world’s cultural heritage.
The Tell es-Sultan location outside of Jericho was nominated for the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by the Palestinian Authority. It was accepted on Sunday during a meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The site is an oval-shaped mound with evidence of human settlement dating back to the Neolithic era. The nomination was separate from Jericho, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The city is administered by the Palestinian Authority and serves as a significant tourist attraction.
Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s assistant director general, stressed the distinction during the meeting.
“Later historical developments, which span over millennia and are demonstrated by material remains beyond the boundaries of Tell es-Sultan, constitute a rich cultural context, worthy of historical interest and preservation, covering among others, Jewish and Christian heritage,” he remarked. “However, this is not the focus of the proposed nomination.”
The Israeli Foreign Ministry described the decision as “another sign of the Palestinians’ cynical use of UNESCO and the politicization of the organization.”
The ministry will seek to “change all the distorted decisions that were made,” the short statement added.
The Jewish state captured the West Bank along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Israeli government perceives the West Bank as the historic cradle of the Jewish people and accuses Palestinians of trying to erase the connection.
Palestine has been a UNESCO member state since 2011. The organization has since recognized three other world heritage sites in Palestine: the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route in Bethlehem, the farmed stone terraces near Battir, and the old town of Hebron. The new entry is listed as “Ancient Jericho/Tell es-Sultan.” Israel left UNESCO in 2019 citing its alleged pro-Palestinian bias.
The conference in Saudi Arabia added multiple new locations to the list of over 1,100 sites, including three Jewish buildings in the medieval historic center of Erfurt, Germany.