Politics, politics and more politics. With the wanton damage caused to the Chutrch of the Nativity by the Palestinians, sudenly the world body UNESCO has decided it is in danger and should be added to the list of World Heritage Sites under the auspices of "Palestine", a country that does not exist. This is just sick and will do nothing to promote peace in the region
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted in a surprise decision Friday to include the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, as a World Heritage site.
The vote, in the Russian city of St Petersburg, was 13 in favor and six against - with two abstentions - more than the two thirds required for inclusion on the list.
The Church of the Nativity is regarded as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and is perhaps the biggest tourist attraction in the West Bank.
Palestinians push for Bethlehem UNESCO recognition Palestinians are making a last push to get parts of biblical Bethlehem recognized as an endangered World Heritage site ahead of a decision expected this week. The decision, submitted under emergency procedure once the Palestinians missed the deadline, came as a surprise.
Both the World Heritage's technical advisory body, as well as the committee's secretariat, had said the Palestinian application did not met the necessary criteria to be listed through the emergency procedure.
Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority government, welcomed the decision, saying it "shows the significance of Bethlehem to the world, and to world heritage."
"This is a victory for Palestine, as well as for justice, rights and human principles," he said.
"It is a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land," Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said.
Israel had objected at the church's being included as a World Heritage site in "Palestine," seeing it as the latest Palestinian attempt to pursue statehood unilaterally through the United Nations, rather than via negotiations.
In October, UNESCO had angered Israel by accepting Palestine as a member, even though it was not a United Nations member state.
"We're not opposed in principle to the Church of the Nativity being a World Heritage Site. That's not the issue. The issue is the politicization of UNESCO," Israeli Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson told the German news agency dpa.
"The issue is the violation of UNESCO's own rules, after its own committee said there was no imminent danger to the Church, so no emergency procedure was needed," he said.
"Instead of taking steps to advance peace, the Palestinians are making unilateral moves which only move peace further away," a statement from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.
The United States, which like Israel opposed the Palestinian application, was also critical of the result of the vote.
"In the 40 years of the World Heritage Convention's existence, the emergency procedure has been used only four times and only in the most extreme cases, and always consistent with the recommendation of the advisory bodies. This body should not be politicized," U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion said in a statement.