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In an unusual move, the European Union has publicly warned the Palestinians that they must drop their United Nations bid to reference the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of al-Haram al-Sharif.
It spoke out about the issue on Friday at the UN General Assembly, which approved six anti-Israel resolutions, including two that ignored Jewish ties to the most holy site in Judaism, the Temple Mount.
Its 28 member states voted in favor of those two resolutions, but warned that this was the last year it would do so.
“The EU stresses the need for language on the holy sites of Jerusalem to reflect the importance and historical significance of the holy sites for the three monotheistic religions, and to respect religious and cultural sensitivities,” it said in a statement that was read out on the floor of the UN.
“The future choice of language may affect the EU’s collective support for the resolutions,” it added.
Traditionally the EU has been harshly critical of Israeli activity over the pre-1967 lines and its policies on that score have created tensions with Israel.
It has historically supported the annual passage of pro-Palestinian resolutions involving Jerusalem at the UNGA, where the Palestinian have an automatic majority.
Its opposition, or even a decision to abstain, would mark a dramatic shift in its policy toward those texts.
EU support is not needed for the Palestinians to continue to secure passage of the resolutions.
But its backing is significant to the Palestinians from a public relations perspective, particularly given the animosity between Ramallah and Washington in the era of the Trump Administration.
Both the Palestinians and the EU share a common understanding that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Until now, the EU has not taken a united stand on a drive by both the Arab states and the Palestinians to subtly change UN language with regard to the Temple Mount in the heart of Jerusalem’s old city.
The main focus of that drive has been at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, where references to al-Haram al-Sharif were slowly inserted into texts.
The initiative culminated in a failed 2015 resolution UNESCO’s Executive Board that sought to affirm that the Western Wall, referenced solely by its Muslim name of the Buraq Plaza “is an integral part of al-Aksa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif.”
Subsequent resolutions the following year, that were approved continued to speak solely of the Buraq Plaza and the al-Haram al-Sharif.
An intense diplomatic campaign by Israel and the United States, with the help of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, neutralized that text.
This year, the Jerusalem resolution was fairly benign and all references to al-Haram al-Sharif were included in an annex to the text that also spoke of the importance of the site to all three monotheistic religions.
The EU never took a common public position on that text, with some members opposing it and others supporting it.
Scant attention, however, was paid to the issue of the Jerusalem resolutions at the General Assembly, which in 2015 also began to solely speak of the Temple Mount site as al-Haram al-Sharif.
EU countries that opposed such a Muslim only classification at UNESCO, often turned around and supported it at the UNGA.
On Friday, the EU said that it no longer intended to turn a blind eye to that language.
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