PM responds to accusation that nat'l heritage plan could start war in ME.
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a harsh response on Tuesday evening to a statement made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the day, according to which the decision to award Jewish sites in the West Bank national heritage status could ignite a war in the Middle East.“It is a dishonest, hypocritical campaign,” read a PMO statement released in response to Abbas’s speech.Netanyahu stressed that Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarch and Rachel’s Tomb, near Hebron, 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.Earlier on Tuesday, Abbas had told Belgian parliamentarians that Netanyahu’s decision to include Jewish landmarks in the West Bank in the government’s new list of heritage sites was a “severe provocation” that could lead to a new cycle of violence in the region.Abbas told the ministers that the inclusion of Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on the list of sites of national importance 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 Barak Obama to take confidence-building measures vis-à-vis the Palestinians.Advertisement“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, 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.
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