The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised the Netanyahu government for adding Hebrons Tomb of the Patriarchs, the burial place of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Rachels Tomb near Bethlehem, to the list of Israels heritage sites. The Israeli heritage listing plan has a government budget of over NIS 500,000 to renovate and restore the national heritage sites.
Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli heritage listing, describing it as as serious provocation (Ali Waked, Abbas, Haniyeh: Heritage sites will ignite a war, Yediot Ahronot, February 23, 2010). The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) also condemned the heritage listing by Israel, referring to the Tomb of the Patriarchs by its Muslim name, the Ibrahimi Mosque, and to Rachels Tomb as Bilal Ben Rabah Mosque. While the Tomb of the Patriarchs has long been referred to by Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, Rachels Tomb was never claimed as a mosque by any Muslim group until 2000, when Palestinians started to refer to it as the Bilal Ben Rabah Mosque (Nadav Shragai, Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel’s Tomb as a Test Case, Jerusalem Viewpoints, December 2007).
The PLO also hinted that Palestinians would resort to violence, warning of the Israel decisions repercussions on the peace process, and calling the international community to take concrete steps to save the Middle East of entering a new cycle of conflict and bloodshed (PLO Condemns Israeli Decision on Holy Sites, WAFA-PLO News Agency, February 22, 2010).
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh also called for a new uprising against Israel. Responding to this, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement that We are talking about a campaign of lies and hypocrisy Rachels Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are burial sites dating from more than 3,500 years ago of Israels forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the nations foremothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel and are worthy of preservation and renovation (Barak Ravid, Netanyahu: Abbas remarks on heritage sites are lies, hypocrisy, Haaretz, February 22, 2010).
ZOA National Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, We applaud the Netanyahu government for adding these sites to the Israeli heritage list. Not only is it right that the most ancient and revered Jewish sites be maintained and heritage listed, but we know from bitter experience that Israeli neglect or absence from the scene result in destruction of Jewish shrines at the hands of Palestinians.
Jewish holy sites have been destroyed, vandalized or left in disrepair by the Palestinians whenever PA control has been extended, even temporarily, to localities containing them. The Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva at Josephs Tomb was destroyed in 1996 by Palestinian rioters, while Josephs tomb itself was destroyed in 2000 by Palestinian mobs as soon as Israeli forces were temporarily withdrawn. Another ancient Jewish site, the Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho, rediscovered only after the 1967 war, was also completely and deliberately destroyed by Palestinians in October 2000. There is long record of PA denials of the existence of Jewish sites and Jewish rights to them.
Of the two sites newly listed, Rachels Tomb in particular has been the object of much Palestinian shooting, bombing rioting, rock throwing and vandalism for years.
The incitement to violence by Mahmoud Abbas and the PA over this heritage is not only obviously antithetical to peace but indicates clearly that Abbas and the PA are not genuine peace partners. Any Palestinian leader who suggests that violence is justified over the heritage listing of Jewish sites which they do not even recognize as such is not one who has any interest in making peace. No peace agreement could have any value when signed with such leaders. The Palestinian denial of Jewish history and rights only too clearly underscores why peace is unfortunately not possible with Abbas and his Fatah-backed PA.