FM Liberman praying at Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Facebook)
Liberman at Cave of the Patriarchs

The Palestinian governor of Hebron accused Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman of inciting violence by visiting a Jewish holy site.

The Palestinian governor of Hebron, Kamel Hemeid, described a visit to the historic Jewish city by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman as part of a “growing call for desecration of holy places and the creation of chaos.” Liberman visited the Cave of the Patriarchs during a campaign stop to promote his party, Yisrael Beitenu, ahead of Tuesday’s elections.

Hebron is one of the four holy cities considered central to Jewish history as well as the site where the Cave of the Patriarchs is located. Under the 1998 Wye River Memorandum, the Islamic Waqf controls 81 percent of the site, including the only known entrance to the cave and the tombs of Isaac and Rebecca. Furthermore, Israeli law prohibits Jewish religious authorities from maintaining the site, giving the Waqf full authority to do so.

In his speech, Liberman criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for agreeing in 1997 to withdraw the IDF from 80% of Hebron, placing it under the total control of the Palestinian Authority. Kamel described this statement as a threat, saying, “This is a clear retreat and [shows a] lack of commitment from the Israeli government to the protocol, and we warn against the continuation of these visits and raids.”

Kamel went so far as to accuse Liberman of inciting violence. “[These comments] are a call for Israeli extremists to repeat the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre whose effects are still being felt in the division of the city,” he said, referring to the 1994 attack on Muslim worshippers by Baruch Goldstein, which was widely condemned in Israel.

Yisrael Beitenu officially calls for a two-state solution with land swaps. Under this plan, Israel would withdraw from isolated settlements, retain the major settlement blocs, and transfer the “Triangle,” an Israeli-Arab population center contiguous with the Green Line, to the new Palestinian state. This plan aroused opposition among Israeli Arabs, who overwhelmingly prefer to remain Israeli. In a 2000 survey of residents of Umm al-Fahm, 83% of respondents opposed transferring their city to Palestinian control. The top reason given, at 54%, was the preference to live in a democratic state with a high standard of living.

By: Lauren Calin, United with Israel