Hamas has called for unrest in the West Bank city of Hebron following news of President Isaac Herzog’s plan to light the first candle of Hanukkah at the Cave of the Patriarchs on Sunday.
Left-wing Israeli groups have also said they oppose the president’s move.
The biblical site, which is also holy to both Jews and Muslims, hosts both Jewish prayer sanctuaries and the Ibrahimi Mosque. It has always been a delicate friction point between Israelis and Palestinians and a scene of many violent incidents.
A Hamas official called the planned candle-lighting a “provocation” and an “attack,” and said that any violence that ensues would be Israel’s fault.
“The Israeli occupation must bear full responsibility for the consequences of this attack,” Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas member, said in a statement on Friday. He added that the candle-lighting would be “a provocation of the feelings of the Palestinians and a blatant desecration of the sanctity of the mosque.”
He called on Palestinians to resist the Israeli move.
Herzog’s decision to light the first candle of Hanukkah in Hebron, while seen by many Israelis from the Right as a galvanizing move, has also elicited harsh criticism from Israeli left-wing groups, who expressed their opposition beginning the week of celebration of the Jewish Festival of Light in Hebron, including from a lawmaker from coalition partner Meretz.
MK Michal Rozin tweeted that Herzog’s decision to light the first Hanukkah candle in the Cave of the Patriarchs was a mistake.
“The president should be a unifying personality,” she wrote. “[Israeli] rule in Hebron and in the occupied territories in particular, is mired in the sharpest political controversy. Settlements in Hebron around the Cave are the most infuriating. It’s very sad that the president gives priority to this.”
The overwhelming majority of replies to Rozin were totally opposed to her views, hitting back at her by attacking the Left and stating that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was correct when he said the Left had forgotten what it means to be Jewish – and that the cave is not a matter of Left or Right politically, but is a holy place decreed as such by God.
Herzog is not the first high-level Israeli official to visit Hebron in recent years. His predecessor Reuven Rivlin went there as did former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.