Amid the controversy surrounding the inclusion of West Bank sites on Israel's national heritage site list, President Shimon Peres said Wednesday that there is no need to create artificial conflicts, adding that Israel will continue to grant full freedom of worship to all worshippers and believers at the holy sites.
Riots resumed in Hebron on Wednesday following the decision to declare the Cave of the Patriarchs a national heritage site. Dozens of Palestinians hurled stones at the security forces and set fire to tires. The security forces responded with crowd dispersal means.
President Peres made the statement during a meeting in Jerusalem with UN envoy to the Middle East Robert Serry.
The president's office reported that the two discussed the advancement of the peace process, the situation in the Gaza Strip, and the Syrian front.
Peres stressed that some Palestinian groups, particularly Hamas, which are trying to create false conflicts.
In response to the uproar over the government's decision to include the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb on the national heritage list, Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said, "It is not only Hamas (that opposes the decision). There are some elements in Israel, who are supposed to be striving for peace, saying that if we declare that these sites are ours another intifada will break out."
Speaking Wednesday at conference of the heads of Latin American Jewish communities in Jerusalem, the minister said, "It seems that their vision of peace is that we'll get permission to ride a donkey and visit the tombs only if the landowner feels like giving it, like in medieval times.
"We won't allow others tell is we have no right of ownership over sites that have been a part of Israel's tradition for thousands of years," he said.
Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) said before the cabinet's weekly meeting that the strident voices coming from the Palestinian side since the government's announcement to include the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb on the heritage site list are just a "masked ball of all the political figures involved in the issue."
In response to Israel's heritage plan, Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad's military wing, threatened Tuesday to launch attacks within the Jewish state.
"If the Israelis continue to damage our mosques and holy places, we will respond within the Zionist territory," the al-Quds Brigades spokesman told Ynet. Israel's ministers, however, insist that the government will not renege on its decision.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on the international community on to pressure Israel to renege on its decision to add the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb to the list of heritage sites, claiming the move matched Israel's policy to "establish the occupation".
Roni Sofer, Efrat Weiss and Ali Waked contributed to the report