The IDF has allowed MKs from the legislature’s Land of Israel lobby to visit Kever Yosef (Joseph’s Tomb) in Shechem in daylight, but has also decided not to allow members of the media to accompany them.
15 MKs are expected to take part in the visit, including Culture & Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud), Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and Aryeh Eldad (National Union). The MKs will be accompanied by Samaria Rabbi Elyakim Levanon and Shomron Mayor Gershon Mesika.
MK Tzipi Hotovely, a member of the Land of Israel lobby who had worked in order to get approval for the visit, criticized on Monday the decision not to allow media to accompany the visit.
“The idea behind the struggle [to receive approval for the visit] was to allow the general public to regularly enter Joseph’s Tomb in broad daylight,” Hotovely told Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website.
She added that “excluding journalists from taking part in the visit is a crime against freedom of the press, and proves that the IDF does not feel that it is in charge of the area.”
Hotovely noted that “entry into Joseph’s Tomb must not be by the grace of the Palestinian Authority, but rather by virtue of our right to Joseph’s Tomb.”
Meanwhile, PA Arabs have called for confrontations with the MKs during the visit, the PA-based Wafa news agency reported on Monday. According to the report, the calls were made using Facebook.
Palestinian Authority security forces’ spokesman, General Adnan Damiri, told Wafa that the local Arabs will confront the Israeli MKs since they do not recognize the PA and its security forces. Damiri warned against severe clashes due to the fact that the visit will take place without coordination with PA security services.
“Joseph’s Tomb is under the control of Palestinian security forces, and any visit by Israelis requires prior coordination, but apparently the right-wing Knesset members do not understand the severity of their actions,” Damiri said.
“Joseph’s Tomb is located in the heart of Palestinian population, and around it there are five schools and refugee camps,” added Damiri. “I place the responsibility on the Israeli government and the Knesset members themselves if a confrontation breaks out with locals who are determined not to let the provocative visit take place.
“It is not our job to protect the settlers who come to provoke thousands of residents of Shechem and these MKs are simply settlers who do not want security coordination with us,” said Damiri.
Wafa also reported of tension among the Arab residents of Shechem and added that while the residents said they had no interest in confrontation with the Israelis, they will not allow the visit to take place without coordination with PA security forces. The report quoted a resident of Shechem who said that thousands of the city’s residents are ready for a confrontation if the visit takes place, and called it a provocative visit of right-wing public figures.
MKs Zeev Elkin and Aryeh Eldad, who head the Knesset’s Land of Israel lobby, said in response to the reports that “the PA is proving again that the agreements with it are not worth the paper on which they were signed, and that weapons given to it to combat terrorism are again producing terrorism, just like it was in the murder of Ben Yosef Livnat.
“We call on the Minister of Defense not to surrender to Palestinian terror and stand firm on our right to visit Joseph’s tomb as required by the agreements with the PA,” added the MKs. “We ask the Prime Minister to listen to the voices of incitement coming from Shechem, and to remind the members of Congress that agreements are not just about festivities and Nobel Prizes, but also about national security and the lives of people.”