'Abbas campaign is hypocritical'

PM responds to accusation that nat'l heritage plan could start war in ME.

Bibi smiling and pointing 311 ap (photo credit: Associated Press)
Bibi smiling and pointing 311 ap
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a harsh response on Tuesdayevening to a statement made by Palestinian Authority President MahmoudAbbas earlier in the day, according to which the decision to awardJewish sites in the West Bank national heritage status could ignite awar in the Middle East.
“It is a dishonest, hypocritical campaign,” read a PMO statement released in response to Abbas’s speech.
Netanyahustressed that Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarch and Rachel’s Tomb, near Bethlehem, were both “gravesites of the ancestors of the Jewish people”and as such were “certainly deserving of restoration and preservation.”
He added that the Israeli government does all in its power to ensure freedom of religion for members of all faiths.
Earlieron Tuesday, Abbas had told Belgian parliamentarians that Netanyahu’sdecision to include Jewish landmarks in the West Bank in thegovernment’s new list of heritage sites was a “severe provocation” thatcould lead to a new cycle of violence in the region.
Abbas toldthe ministers that the inclusion of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and theCave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on the list of sites of nationalimportance could ignite a “war of religions."
He warned that the decision could also bring about a third intifada, adding that Netanyahu’s insistence on making the announcement only a short time after he was asked by US President Barack Obama to take confidence-building measures vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
“We have reached a very critical stage which necessitates an intensive, coordinated international effort. Settlement construction, which kills the peace process and contradicts Israel’s obligations, must be stopped,” he said, going on to refer to existing agreements such as the Road Map for Peace.
He added that the EU and the US each have important parts to play in the peace process, and that any delay in the resumption of talks would make the possibility of peace more remote.
Throughout his speech, Abbas reiterated that the impasse in Middle Eastpeace talks can be attributed only to Israel’s refusal to acceptexisting agreements, and not to an alleged Palestinian refusal toreturn to the negotiating table.
Abbas stressed that not every issue was negotiable. If Israel wishes tobegin negotiations, he said, it must stop creating facts on the groundby continuing to expand Jewish communities in Palestinian areas and ineast Jerusalem.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, as on the previous day, dozens of Palestinians held a demonstration nearthe Jewish enclave in Hebron in protest of Netanyahu’s decision. Theprotesters burned tires and hurled rocks at IDF troops stationed in thearea, who retorted by using stun grenades.