Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad plans to move his weekly cabinet meeting from Ramallah to Hebron on Monday to protest Israel’s decision last week to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city on its list of heritage sites.
“It’s a way of showing solidarity with the people in Hebron,” said PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib. “It is trying to pass the message that it is concerned and wants to protest [the site’s inclusion on the heritage list],” he added.
On Friday, in another solidarity gesture, Fayyad prayed at the Ibrahimi Mosque, which is part of the Cave of the Patriarch’s complex.
For five consecutive days last week, from Monday to Friday, Palestinians threw stones and clashed with Israeli soldiers in protest. Palestinians believe that the cave is part of their future state.
Israel has argued that the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the Jewish forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried, is one of the most sacred sites and should be marked for preservation and restoration.
“The point here,” argued Khatib, “is that no matter whether historical sites have religious connotations to Muslims, Christians or Jews, as long as it is in the Palestinian Territories it has to be the responsibility of the Palestinians.”
Similarly, he said, Palestinian sites within the pre-1967 armistice line are supposed to be Israel’s responsibility and each side has to allow free access.
On Sunday, rain fell in Hebron but did not wash out the festivities as Jews celebrated the Purim holiday.
In a few isolated incidents Palestinians threw stones at soldiers.
Otherwise, the city enjoyed its second relatively quiet day, children and adults dressed in costume held their annual “until you do not know” (ad-sheh-lo-yada
) parade, in which they traditionally march through different areas of the city.
This year they went from the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba, down Zion Route in Hebron to the cave to protest the IDF decision to open it to the vehicular traffic of 80 Palestinian families living alongside it.
Members of Hebron’s Jewish community and their supporters then gathered in the community center near the cave for the annual Purim meal.
Outside soldiers stood guard and extra patrols marched by. Inside some soldiers joined Hebron residents in eating and dancing.
Here small boys dressed as pirates and Mordechai held mock sword battles. Girls dressed in white bridal gowns sat on their fathers’ shoulders or stood on the side lines and clapped.
Some costumes had a more modern twist. Shalom Levi of Hebron was dressed as the Dubai Police chief. His daughter, Miriam was Cinderella.
One woman from Tel Aviv said she had come because the cave is the threshold to the Garden of Eden.
Inside the Jewish section of the cave, a few tourists took photographs next to the large ornate tombs. A group of soldiers were given a tour of the site.
Israeli politicians on Sunday spoke out in defense of the cabinet’s decision last week to add the cave to the heritage list.
Western states in Europe as well as the United States are themselves engaging in “provocation” by denying Israel’s right to recognize its own history, accused National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beiteinu), speaking to The Jerusalem Post
“Anyone who cares about peace must disassociate themselves from the Palestinian Authority’s response to our national heritage sites. Their response just shows that they never planned to maintain Jewish sites, or Jewish access to those sites.”
Landau accused the Palestinian leadership of taking advantage of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s announcement in order to delay progress in negotiations. “The story is quite simple.
“The Palestinian Authority heats up the fire and seeks every excuse to ruin any chance for negotiations. They think that if they push, Israel will give in, and they will use every opportunity to throw the talks off the track,” Landau added.
“Sadly the response of our friends in Europe and the United States in coming to us with complaints strengthens that Palestinian strategy.”
Israel, said Landau “cannot accept the stance of our friends in the West who see our behavior as provocation. Anyone who sees our attempt to preserve our history as a provocation, is themselves carrying out a provocation.”
Landau said that as a member of the government, he had lobbied for the “entire national heritage trail to run through Judea and Samaria. I demanded not just the Cave of Machpela and Rachel’s Tomb, but also Tel Shiloh and all of the heritage sites in Judea and Samaria.”
“Tel Shilo must clearly be included,” Landau added, continuing with a
discreet attack against Netanyahu, who did not originally include West
Bank sites in the list before Landau and other right-wing ministers
called him out on the face.
“Anyone who tries to get out of it or to bring them in through the
‘back door’ – that is what gives the Palestinians the impression that
person will eventually cave in if they keep the pressure on.”
Although his ministry does not have a role in developing the national
heritage sites, Landau said that “our real national infrastructures are
not water and power, but our history, our efforts and our feeling of
belonging to the land of Israel and the historical justice of the
Zionist movement. And our friends say that it is not legitimate? Do
they think that the Bible is a provocation as well?”
As a former internal security minister, Landau called upon law
enforcement authorities to “insist on enforcing the law, stubbornly and
aggressively without giving up.”