Israel has refused a UNESCO delegation access to the Old City of Chevron for the purpose of advancing a Palestinian initiative to wrest control of Me’aras Hamachpelah and other sites from Israel under the guise of heritage preservation, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.
The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of endangering historic sites in the area by placement of roadblocks and checkpoints, the use of tear gas to quell Palestinian riots, as well as failure to make necessary repairs. The delegation wants to make a field visit ahead of a scheduled July vote to register the Old City on the list of World Heritage in Danger under the “State of Palestine.”
Israel has rejected the claims that it has caused any harm to the historic sites in the city.
“Israel won’t take part in and won’t legitimize any Palestinian political moves under the guise of culture and heritage,” Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, Carmel Shama HaCohen, said. “We are in the midst of a campaign against the opening of an additional Palestinian front in the religious and cultural war they are trying to force on us.”
The refusal of entry is a “principled and strategic” stand against a UNESCO process filled with “lies that plots against the state of Israel as well as the history and the connection of the Jewish people to this important holy site,” said Shama HaCohen.
Israel argues that in view of the fact that its military control of that part of the city is based on a 1997 agreement with the PA, any cultural listing of the site should be done at the request of both Israel and the Palestinians.
Most of Chevron is under PA control. Only Me’aras Hamachpelah and a small part of the Old City where about 1,000 Jews live are under IDF administration.