ISRAEL - Feb 25 - Netanyahu Tries To Ease Heritage Site Controversy.
Israel's PM tries to calm tensions over the addition of two West Bank shrines to a list of national heritage sites, a decision that has sparked clashes with the Palestinians and drawn widespread international criticism. In an interview to Israeli TV, Benjamin Netanyahu called the affair a "misunderstanding", saying there was no intention to infringe on Muslim freedom of worship. He said the intent was to protect and maintain the sites. "This is not a political decision. It doesn't change anything in that sense. It is concerned with preserving heritage", Netanyahu said. Palestinians have been protesting in Hebron since Israel declared Feb 21 that it would add the Cave of Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in nearby Bethlehem to its list of national heritage sites. The move angered Palestinians, who want Israel out of the territory. The US, UN and some European nations have expressed opposition. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Feb 24 the decision was "provocative" and unhelpful to the goal of restarting peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the region could plunge into a "religious war" over the issue. Jews revere the Hebron site where the Bible says the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried along with three of their wives. Muslims call it the Al-Ibrahimi mosque, reflecting the fact that Abraham is considered the father of both Judaism and Islam. Rachel's Tomb is the site where Jewish tradition holds that Jacob's wife Rachel was buried. In Hebron on Feb 25, Palestinian protesters and their supporters clashed with Israeli troops on the 16th anniversary of the massacre of 29 Muslim worshippers at the holy site by a Jewish settler. Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at dozens of demonstrators who chanted anti-Israel slogans near the site, where American-born Baruch Goldstein carried out the 1994 shooting attack.
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|Publication:||APS Diplomat Recorder|
|Date:||Feb 27, 2010|
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