Israel seeks to invest in contested West Bank sites

David Wilder, a spokesman for Jewish settlers in Hebron, in front of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city.

Baz Ratner/REUTERS

David Wilder, a spokesman for Jewish settlers in Hebron, in front of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city.

JERUSALEM — Israel is advancing a plan to invest in places it considers part of its national heritage, including nine West Bank sites, the government said Monday in an announcement that could appeal to hard-line voters a week ahead of elections. It triggered an angry Palestinian response.

Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser said Israel is adding handicapped access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a sensitive site in the West Bank city of Hebron sacred to both Jews and Muslims.


The United States objected to Israel’s initial 2010 announcement that it would label the shrine an Israeli heritage site, charging that it impeded peace efforts. Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli troops in Hebron then, and President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine warned the move could spark a religious war.

Nour Odeh, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian Authority, called on the international community to condemn the latest Israeli announcement. ‘‘The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a Palestinian site, and the Palestinian Authority is the only one in charge of making any changes to it,’’ Odeh said.

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Also Monday, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Ban is reiterating his call for Israel to rescind its settlement plans in the strategic E1 area of the West Bank. A UN spokesman said the UN chief is concerned about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge Sunday to move ahead with construction of a Jewish settlement in the E1 area.

The new settlement would deepen East Jerusalem’s separation from the West Bank.

With elections set for next week, Netanyahu appears likely to win another term, but his party has been losing seats to a hard-line religious-nationalist faction. The timing of the announcement on the heritage sites suggests that he is trying to win back hawkish voters.

Associated Press

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