By News Agencies
February 22 2010
The United Nations is concerned over Israel's recent decision to include two West Bank holy sites in a planned "heritage trail, Robert Serry, the UN's special coordinator for the Middle East said on Monday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday announced the inclusion of the Biblical Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem and The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on the list. The two sites are sacred to Jews and Muslims.
"I'm concerned over the proclamation made over the sites in Bethlehem and Hebron," Serry said, adding that "those sites are in Palestinian territory and bear an importance no only in Judaism but in Islam as well."
The special Mideast coordinator also warned that the de facto "implementation of the government's decision could harm trust between the two sides and hurt the efforts to renew talks."
Serry's comments came as Palestinians accused earlier Monday the plan to include the biblical Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank in a project for rehabilitating Jewish and Zionist heritage sites, an attempt to seize land and holy sites on Israeli-occupied land.
Following an outburst of violence in Hebron, where the tomb is located, Khaled Esseleh, the mayor of Hebron, said: "I'm hoping there won't be more clashes but this is a very sensitive religious issue, and Netanyahu just lit the fire."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the "unilateral decision to make Palestinian sites in Hebron and Bethlehem part of Israel shows there is no genuine partner for peace, but an occupying power intent on consolidating Palestinian lands."
While major powers worked to restart negotiations, "Netanyahu is actively working to sabotage the two-state solution", Erekat said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Jordanian government accused Israel of derailing peace efforts in the Middle East by adding the West Bank sites to its list of national heritage sites.
"Instead of taking steps to pave the necessary ground for re- launching the peace process, Israel is adopting measures that derail the ongoing peace moves," Minister of State for Media Affairs Nabil Sharif was quoted as saying by the official Petra news agency.
The Tomb of the Patriarchs, or Haram al-Ibrahimi, is regarded as one of Islam's holiest shrines, while Rachel's Tomb is known to Muslims as Bilal Mosque.
"Jordan condemns this and all other unilateral Israeli measures which affect holy places and offend sentiments of Muslims throughout the world," Sharif said.
"We urge Israel to reconsider its new step because it deepens lack of confidence among the concerned parties." He was alluding to the latest attempts by the United States to broker indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel seized East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East War. Under a peace treaty concluded in 1994, Israel acknowledged Jordan's right to look after both Islamic and Christian shrines in the Palestinian-administered territory