Foreign Ministry: Only Israel can protect holy sites

Dore Gold says Palestinian attack on Joseph’s Tomb recalls actions of extremist Muslims from Afghanistan to Libya; rightists call to retake control of sacred shrine

File: Jews at prayer in Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus as IDF soldiers stand guard. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)
File: Jews at prayer in Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus as IDF soldiers stand guard. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Friday morning criticized the torching of the compound containing Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus by some 100 Palestinian youth, charging that the act showed that only Israeli could protect religious sites.

Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold said the incident proved that “only Israel can protect the holy places of all religions in Jerusalem.”

“The Palestinian attack on Joseph’s Tomb recalls the actions of extremist Muslim groups from Afghanistan to Libya,” he said in a statement.

“Israel condemns in no uncertain terms the harm to Joseph’s Tomb committed for the sole reason that it is a place where Jews pray. The torching of Joseph’s Tomb clearly demonstrates what would happen to the holy places in Jerusalem if they were placed in the hands of the Palestinian leadership.”

Screenshot from the fire started by Palestinian rioters at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, in the West Bank, on October 16, 2015.
Screenshot from the fire started by Palestinian rioters at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, in the West Bank, on October 16, 2015.

Earlier, a right-wing minister and the head of a settlement council group called for Israel to retake control of the shrine, believed to be the burial place of the biblical patriarch.

“We saw, in great pain, the difficult pictures from Joseph’s Tomb and are shocked at the harm done to a place holy to the Jewish people,” Avi Roeh, chairman of the Yesha Council settlement advocacy group, said in a statement Friday morning.

“It turns out yet again that there is no alternative to Israeli sovereignty when it comes to protecting holy sites. We demand the return of Israeli control at the site, and opening it to Jewish worship on a permanent basis,” he added.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, of the Jewish Home party, echoed the call, and blamed “Palestinian incitement” for the incident.

Uri Ariel (Flash90)
Uri Ariel (Flash90)

“Torching one of the places holy to the Jewish people is a new low, and a result of Palestinian incitement. While the Palestinians brazenly lie about us harming the status quo on the Temple Mount, they go out and burn and desecrate the sacred places of Israel, and that won’t be forgiven,” he said in a Facebook post, adding, “I call on the prime minister to return control of Joseph’s Tomb to Israel.”

Avigdor Liberman, former foreign minister and head of the right-wing party Yisrael Beytenu, also chimed in on the incident, declaring that the arson showed that the Palestinian Authority was no different than the Islamic State.

“Palestinian youths are torching sacred and historical sites, just like Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] has done in Syria and Iraq.

“Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] was not and will not be a partner for peace,” he added.

The center-left Zionist Union party, meanwhile, also blasted the incident, calling it a “despicable act” by those who are “trying to add fuel to the fire.”

According to Channel 10, Palestinian officials reportedly told their Israeli counterparts — in a phone conversation this morning — that the Palestinians will repair the damage caused to the shrine.

PA security forces had brought the fire under control and dispersed the rioters, according to Walla news. The blaze caused major damage to the women’s section at the site, the website said.

The Israel Defense Forces has also announced that it will make the necessary repairs in order to allow worshipers to continue visiting the holy site.

“The burning and desecration of Joseph’s Tomb overnight is a blatant violation and contradiction of the basic value of freedom of worship. The IDF will take all measures to bring the perpetrators of this despicable act to justice, restore the site to its previous condition and ensure that freedom of worship returns to Joseph’s Tomb,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

The incident came after several weeks of deadly unrest including a wave of near-daily terror attacks that have claimed the lives of eight Israelis since the beginning of this month. In addition, several dozen Israelis have been wounded in the attacks.

Israel was also bracing for a “Day of Rage” Friday across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which was announced by Hamas on Thursday.

Demonstrations were planned in several West Bank cities, including Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron and Bethlehem, and police were on high alert in Jerusalem for possible riots after Friday prayers on the Temple Mount.

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