The Israeli government’s decision to include two West Bank locations—the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb—on a list of “national heritage sites” has sparked an uproar in the country’s political circles. Chaim Oron, chairman of the left-wing Meretz party, slammed the decision Feb. 21, saying “This is another attempt to blur the borders between the State of Israel and the occupied territories.”
Speaking of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at Bar-Ilan University last June, Oron said, “This decision puts Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan declaration of two states for two peoples in an absurd light.”
The right, of course, welcomed the addition of the sites to the heritage site plan. “It’s a pity that the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb need to lobby in order to get onto the list of heritage sites that require government support,” said MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi). “Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs form the base for all the other sites.”
“This is another sign of the intractable link between the Jewish people and this area,” said MK Uri Yehuda Ariel (National Union). “A day will come when other areas, such as Sebastia and Kfar Etzion, which are the first Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, will also become national heritage sites.”
Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan said, “A morning of struggle ended in success. This is a significant and historic achievement for the Jewish nation. I am filled with hope that the construction freeze, which prevents building from Afula to Arad, will soon come to an end.”
Netanyahu instructed that these two additional sites, both in the West Bank city of Hebron, be included on the last at the last minute, after pressure from various cabinet ministers. The plan was unanimously approved.
The Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that the decision was an attempt by Netanyahu’s government to “wreck international efforts aimed at returning to talks.” (AlJazeera, Feb. 22; YNet, Feb. 21)