Tensions spike after Israel names two West Bank sites to national heritage list
Tensions between Israel and Palestinians continued to rise Wednesday, following Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to add two West Bank sites to its national heritage list.
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"This is playing with dynamite. The Israelis are perhaps not actually conscious of what they are doing," says Qaid Abdul-Karim, a member of the PLO's Central Council in Ramallah, which has strong influence over Abbas' decisions.Skip to next paragraph
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"Maybe the immediate reaction in the Palestinian side is not very violent, but sooner or later, the continuation of these provocations by the Israelis, including what they're doing in East Jerusalem, makes it harder to speak about peace or a peace process," says Mr. Abdul-Karim, who is also known as Abu Leila. "By encroaching on holy sites, they are not only committing an attack on Palestinian sovereignty and the two-state solution, they are also attacking the most sacred and sensitive spheres of Palestinian consciousness."
Palestinian and Israeli newspapers were full of speculation as to whether soaring emotions over the decision could provide the spark for a third intifada. Ben Caspit, a journalist for the Maariv newspaper, wrote that the decision to include the two sites was mostly symbolic, and came because of pressure on Netanyahu from the Israeli right-wing.
But past symbolic gestures have led to disaster, Mr. Caspit noted, pointing to the deadly riots sparked in 1996 when Netanyahu, prime minister then as now, allowed for the opening of a tunnel that leads from the Western Wall into the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. "After all, Netanyahu has already been in this story with the Western Wall tunnel. Then too, it was symbolic, pompous, and unnecessary," Caspit wrote.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been reported for weeks to be close to agreeing to "proximity talks" as proposed by George Mitchell, the Obama administration's Middle East peace envoy. Officials on both sides suggested that hope is still in the offing, but shared concern that anger on the street could escalate, making talks that much more difficult.
What are proximity talks? Read this article.
"No decent Palestinian wants a third intifada, but what happens every day is driving the Palestinians crazy," Sufian Abu Zaida, a former cabinet minister in the Palestinian Authority, said in an interview with Army Radio.
"I'm not sure that it's the smartest thing in the world [for Netanyahu] to say that these areas will be part of Israel at this particular time," Eiland told foreign reporters at a briefing, when asked about the government's move. "But at the end of the day, Israeli statements are always confronted by Palestinian statements, but I don't think it has to grow into something much bigger than that."