Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, blasted president Mahmoud Abbas for his remarks regarding Israel’s plan to consider the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and the Bilal Mosque in Bethlehem as part of the “Jewish Heritage Trail.”Netanyahu claimed that Israel has the obligation to ensure the freedom of religion to all faiths, while on the ground Palestinian Muslims and Christians cannot reach the holy sites in Jerusalem.
He added that Abbas and other leaders of different factions are launching a campaign of what he called “hypocrisy and lies”.
Abbas said that Israel’s plan to annex the two holy sites to consider them as part of the Jewish national heritage is a dangerous Israeli provocation.
The two sites are not located in Israel or even in Jerusalem.
Hamas’ political leader, Ismail Haniyya, said that this Israeli plan requires the Palestinians to start a new uprising against the occupation.
The office of Netanyahu said that Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem is a Jewish holy site dating back to more than 3500 years ago.
The office added that Israel wants to preserve the site and renovate it. Yet, this plan would also lead to annexing a local mosque.
President Mahmoud Abbas told the Brussels parliament that Israel is trying to steal the Palestinian heritage as part of a larger plan to take over holy Muslim sites.
Netanyahu announced on Sunday that the Ibrahimi Mosque (known as Cave of the Patriarchs) in the southern Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron, and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as part of the Israeli national heritage plan that would be promoted by the government.
Haniyya of Hamas said that this plan requires a real popular response, and added that Israel is stealing the Arab and Islamic history.
His statements came during a session of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza. He said that the Authority of Abbas in the West Bank must halt all talks with Israel.
Robert Serry, United Nations Special Middle East Coordinator, stated Monday that he is concerned over the Israeli decision. Fundamentalist groups in Israel, including the Yesha Council of Settlement, expressed support to the plan, and stood by Netanyahu.
Furthermore, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister said that Mahmoud Abbas is still unable to “free himself of his past as a holocaust denier,” and fails to “acknowledge the Jewish history that dates thousands of years in the country.”
The Ibrahimi mosque is also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs, and is divided into two sections with separate entrances; one for Muslims, and one for Jews. To enter the site Palestinians must pass through a military checkpoint in the old city, and then be subjugated to further searches by the Israeli military at another checkpoint at the entrance to the mosque. It comes only a further 15 feet, or so, from the previous check.
The Mosque of Bilal, also known as Rachel’s Tomb, was on the outskirts of the city of Bethlehem prior to the construction of Israel’s annexation wall, and can now only be accessed by Palestinians living in the West Bank by first passing through a check point to the other side of the wall, assuming that they have permission to pass from the State of Israel. They must then take a bus or taxi to the site. Access is guarded by another military checkpoint, and entrance to the area by foot is not permitted.