Right-wing ministers and groups are calling for Israel to retake control of the shrine near Nablus known as Joseph’s Tomb, believed to be the burial place of the biblical patriarch, after Palestinian rioters torched the site overnight Thursday-Friday.
“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.
“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.
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.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF spokesman: “The burning and desecration of Joseph’s Tomb last night 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.”
The incident came after several weeks of deadly unrest including a wave of 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.