Peres concerned by heritage sites decision
Following anger in territories and US criticism, Ynet learns president has also expressed his discontent over controversial decision, saying it should have been taken in stages. Meanwhile, members of Jordan's professional association hold protests, call for annulment of peace treaty
The decision should not have been taken in the manner it was taken, but rather, in phases, Peres reportedly said in closed-door sessions over the weekend.
"It was possible to decide to focus on 10 sites at this time, and take more decisions later," Peres was quoted as saying.
Riots in Hebron. Peres optimistic as well (Photo: AFP)
Following several days of local riots, the president expressed his concern about the violence that may follow in Palestinian areas, while also referring to Israel's responsibility on this front. "It depends on us too," he noted. "We must conduct ourselves cautiously and with restraint."
However, Peres expressed guarded optimism regarding the prospect of soon renewing official contacts with the Palestinians in the framework of diplomatic talks. The president said that the Palestinian position on the matter has changed slightly as of late.
Peres added privately that he intends to continue his support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as long as the latter works to renew negotiations with the Palestinians.
Fayyad prays in Hebron: Non-violent protest
Last week, the cabinet approved a wide-scale plan to preserve and renovate "heritage sites" at a cost of NIS 400 million (about $106 million). At the last moment, after being pressured by right-wing elements and ministers, Netanyahu decided to add to the plan two sites located in the West Bank.
Burning flag in Jordan, Saturday (Photo: AP)
The decision sparked riots in the territories, and particularly in Hebron. Many young Palestinians, including children, have been clashing with the security forces in the past few days.
After Hamas called for a third intifada and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned of a "religious war", Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attended the Friday prayer in Hebron, called on his people to continue their struggle, but stressed that the Palestinians would not let the Israeli decision drag them to a state of violence.
Netanyahu himself has tried to ease the tensions with the Palestinians several times, saying it was all a misunderstanding. "We have no intention of changing the status quo regarding Jewish or Muslim praying. We want to maintain the current prayer arrangements. The renovations were carried out in coordination with the Waqf. These are necessary repairs," the prime minister said.
Meanwhile, dozens of members of professional associations in Jordan demonstrated Saturday in Amman against Israel's decision to add the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tombs to the list of national heritage sites.
According to Jordanian media reports, the protestors burned Israeli flags and carried signs urging the government to annul the peace treaty with Israel "as a first move in defending the holy sites."
Dr Ahmed al-Armouti, secretary of the Jordan Medical Association, said that "the response to this crime must not be summed up with a statement and condemnations, but should be translated into support for the armed resistance option, the 'mujahideen' (freedom fighters), lifting the siege imposed on the people of Gaza and cancelling all forms of normalization and agreements with Israel."
Roee Nahmias contributed to this report