'Keep Cave of Patriarchs off list'

In protest of nat'l heritage decision, PA moves cabinet meeting to Hebron.

March 2, 2010 00:22
2 minute read.
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas

abbas pointing finger 311 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

The Palestinian Authority on Monday called on the international community to stop Israel from placing the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem on its list of national heritage sties.

To protest the inclusion of the West Bank sites the PA believes will one day be part of its future state, it moved its weekly cabinet meeting from Ramallah to Hebron on Monday.

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In a statement that it released after its meeting, the PA said that this decision was against international law.

"These sites are an inseparable part of Palestinian land which has been occupied since 1967. The PA has turned to all the international bodies to demand that it oppose Israel's decision and cause its abolishment," said the PA.

The PA also spoke of its opposition to Israeli actions in east Jerusalem, including its construction of Jewish homes and demolition of Palestinian homes there as well as the steps it took Sunday to quell Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount.

It also turned to the European Union to ask that it help stop Jewish construction in east Jerusalem.

On Monday the EU said that Israel was harming the peace process.

A spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief said in a statement that she regarded the addition of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb "as detrimental to the attempts to re-launch peace negotiations. The EU calls on Israel to refrain from provocative acts."

Since the sites were placed on the list on February 21, Palestinians have clashed with the IDF in Hebron. Clashes were more intense for the first five days, and since then have dwindled down to small incidents of rock throwing.

According to  AP, a group of settler youths, some as young as 4 years old, threw rocks and cursed at Palestinians.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that placing West Bank sites on the heritage list could lead to a religious war.

But Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told AP, "We are not going to be drawn into a cycle of violence. We are fully determined, and we count on our people understanding fully well that the best response to this ... is to stay focused" on state-building.

The cave where the biblical forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, both of whom pray in separate sections of the complex.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, said he hoped the present tension over Rachel's Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs was just a "rough moment, a hiccup" that could be overcome on the way to renewing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.Kerry, at a Jerusalem press conference on Monday, said that access to the sites --  which he said were important to Jewish and Moslem understanding of their "history, culture and religions" -- was shared.

Saying that he thought what Netanyahu did was "understandable" within the context of trying to "preserve and renew" the Jewish components of the sites, Kerry added that "the timing and manner of the announcement needs to be taken into account in the future context of trying to move people to dialogue."

Kerry said that the move "certainly lends itself to misinterpretation without adequate explanation, and I  think there is an explanation, and I think you have to be carful with these things. My caution as we go forward is we have to be thoughtful about everything we say and do so we keep a dialogue on track."

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