Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was heckled by a right-wing settler during a tour of the Cave of the Patriarchs while a Palestinian Authority claimed that the minister had “stormed” the holy site in Hebron.
“You’re an enemy of the settlers,” Baruch Marzel yelled at Ya’alon as he headed toward the Cave of the Patriarchs on Tuesday, during a tour of the West Bank.
Marzel continued his verbal attack, saying that Ya’alon was a minister who failed to offer security. “You’re tough on Jews, but weak on Arabs,” he yelled.
The defense minister toured the Cave of the Patriarchs in advance of an expected visit to the site on Thursday by thousands of Jewish worshipers.
When security personnel entered one of the sanctuaries that comprise the complex prior to Ya’alon’s visit, they found Marzel, a Hebron resident, and a number of youngsters, studying the Bible. When they asked him and the youngsters to vacate the premises so that they could secure the site for Ya’alon visit, Marzel refused.
A compromise was reached whereby Marzel agreed to leave the premises but the youngsters remained. When Ya’alon’s vehicle arrived, Marzel heckled the defense minister, and continued to do so even after being led away by police.
“He is the worst defense minister ever for the settlement enterprise,” Marzel said, adding that he was glad the youngsters could remain studying, as their doing so contributed much more than Ya’alon to the nation’s security.
Marzel, and many on the far Right, are angry at Ya’alon because he obeyed the High Court of Justice ruling and demolished two partially completed unauthorized apartment buildings in the Beit El settlement as well as a home in the Eli settlement, but did not take similar steps against illegal Palestinian construction in the village of Sussiya in the South Hebron Hills.
Ya’alon’s rare public visit to Hebron also drew the ire of Palestinian Authority figures, who were upset that on Thursday, the complex – which Muslims call the Ibrahimi Mosque – will be closed to Muslim worshipers.
The authority’s mufti, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, charged that Ya’alon had “stormed” the Cave of the Patriarchs during his visit on Tuesday.
The mufti said that no party other than the PA was entitled to a say in the affairs of the Ibrahimi Mosque and that the Israeli authorities were responsible for the “violations.”
Ya’alon’s visit occurred during a time when Israeli authorities were preparing to prevent Muslims from entering the site for prayer in order to allow settlers and “extremists to storm their way through it and hold their religious services,” the mufti said.
Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, a prominent Islamic religious official in Hebron, also condemned Ya’alon’s visit, calling it a “flagrant violation of the mosque’s sanctity.”
He said that Jews had no rights whatsoever to the Cave of the Patriarchs and called on the Israeli government to stop the “provocations” he claimed were caused by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
During his visit to the West Bank, Ya’alon addressed the issue of Israeli-Palestinian tensions in the wake of the July 31 terror attack in Duma during which two men assumed to be Jewish extremists torched two homes killing Sa’ad Dawabsha, 31, and his 18-month old son, Ali. Sa’ad’s wife, Reham, 27 and his son, Ahmed, 4, were seriously injured in the attack.
Security forces clamped down on right-wing activists in the past week, arresting and releasing more than a dozen of them on Sunday.
On Tuesday, two further right-wing activists were detained. Three right-wing activists are currently being held under administrative detention: Meir Ettinger, Eviatar Slonim and Mordechai Meyer.
Police have not linked any of these arrests and detentions with the Duma attack.
Ya’alon told soldiers in the Judea Brigade headquarters outside Hebron that the two Palestinian terrorist attacks in the West Bank in the last week were a reaction to what happened in Duma.
“We’re still experiencing a wave of reactions to the terrorist attack in Duma,” Ya’alon said. “There were terrorist attacks beforehand, but it’s clear that some of the attacks we are seeing are a reaction to Duma, like the [three] soldiers who were run over [by a Palestinian] at the Sinjil junction in the area of Shiloh.”
Palestinians hear the incitement against Israel in their media and they get in their car and run Israelis over, Ya’alon said, or they “take a knife and try to kills Jews at a gas station on Route 443.” He added that the tools they use for these attacks are whatever is easily available to them.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are also seeking to carry out terrorist attacks, but so far, this has not happened, Ya’alon said, although he warned that it could.
“One of the important things in Judea and Samaria is not to be confused by the calmness and the scenery or to succumb to the [summer] heat,” he said. “We have to be alert all the time,” he added, explaining that attacks like the one in Duma undermine stability in the area.
The IDF constantly takes measures to ensure calm, he said, particularly through implementing measures that improve the economy by providing for more jobs and commercial activity. He told the soldiers that the combination of good intelligence, security operations and arrests helped foil attacks such as the ones he referred to. “Much blood has been spared” by the execution of these three activities, Ya’alon said