Palestinian Authority ‘Protector’ of Jewish Holy Sites?
The Palestinian Authority has promised to keep Joseph’s Tomb open for Jews, but reported last week Jews “broke in” to the holy site, located in Shechem in central Samaria.
The Oslo Accords provided that Israel retain sovereignty over the site, also known as Kever Yosef, but Israel relinquished control after Arabs desecrated and burned the site in 2001. One Jew was killed by Arabs in an ambush nearby.
The IDF has escorted thousands of Jews the past two years to pray at Kever Yosef, where the Palestinian Authority has posted armed police. One of the policeman opened fire on Jews last year and killed Ben Yosef Livnat, nephew of Likud Minister Limor Livnat.
Since then, the military has reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority for the continuing visits of Jews, but the PA stated on its web site last week, “Around 500 Jewish settlers broke into Joseph’s Tomb east of Nablus [Shechem] late Wednesday under heavy security by Israeli forces.” It defined the site as being located in the Balata refugee camp, where it said “military jeeps and 10 buses carrying Jewish settlers broke into [and] performed prayers and left the area afterwards.
Palestinian Authority policemen remain armed at Kever Yosef, despite the murder of Livnat last year.
Likud Cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein has called for Israel to restore its sovereignty over Kever Yosef. Current arrangements only allow for Jews to pray there at night once a month, usually around the eve of a new Hebrew month.
Palestinian Authority minister for religious affairs insists that Kever Yosef has not been confirmed as a Jewish site, and he claims there are Muslim studies that it was actually the burial site of a Muslim sheikh, AFP reported.