Arabs occupy and desecrate Joseph's Tomb in 2000
Arabs occupy and desecrate Joseph's Tomb in 2000 Flash 90

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) on Friday morning called to return Joseph's Tomb in Shechem (Nablus) to Israeli control, after about 150 Palestinian Arabs on Thursday night arrived at the compound and tried to burn it down.

Reportedly Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces dispersed the rioters by firing in the air, and then Palestinian firefighters put out the fire. Initial reports indicated that damage was inflicted to the women's prayer area.

"The arson of one of the holiest sites to the Jewish nation is an additional low, and the result of Palestinian incitement," said Ariel.

"Even as the Palestinians shamelessly lie about (Israel) harming the status quo on the Temple Mount, they themselves are burning and desecrating the holy sites of Israel, and this cannot be forgiven."

Switching to a call for action, Ariel concluded by saying, "I call on the prime minister to return the control of Joseph's Tomb to the hands of Israel."

Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman also responded to the incident, saying, "the arson of Joseph's Tomb tonight proves that the management of the Palestinian Authority is no different from that of ISIS (Islamic State), and after the Palestinian youths took machetes and knives to kill Jews now they're also burning holy places and historical heritage sites, just like ISIS members do to heritage sites of the human civilization in Iraq and Syria."

"The arson at Joseph's Tomb by a Palestinian mob that was incited by the lies of (PA Chairman Mahmoud) Abbas and led by Fatah activists only raises the surprise over those who even today refuse to see the bloody writing on the burned walls which says that Abbas never was, is or will be a partner, and yet they still call and are ready to meet and speak with him."

"This couldn't have happened without PA involvement"

Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan echoed Ariel in demanding a return of Israeli control to the holy site.

"Every human should be shocked and express disgust at this barbaric act, Joseph's Tomb is one of the holiest sites to the Jewish nation, and a historical asset of humanity at large," said Dagan, who accused Abbas of "inciting, funding and sending terror."

"An incident of this proportion could not have happened at a site like this without the direction or at least the agreement of the Palestinian police," he argued.

In a call to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Dagan demanded that IDF soldiers be redeployed to Joseph's Tomb "as it was supposed to be even in the Oslo Accords. ...The only ones who can defend Joseph's Tomb are IDF soldiers.

"I call on the prime minister to return full sovereignty to this site that is holy to Israel."

According to the 1994 Oslo Accords, Joseph's Tomb was supposed to remain under full Israeli control. But in 2000 amid the Second Intifada terror war, hoards of Arab rioters invaded the tomb - which housed a synagogue and a yeshiva - ransacked it and burned it to the ground, while parading Jewish holy books and desecrating them. Local Muslims later declared the site as a mosque, as the IDF reduced the Jewish presence to a once-monthly visit.

Under previous agreements with Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is required to protect Jewish holy sites under its control, and to allow secure access for Jewish worshipers. 

However, in 2011 Yosef Livnat was murdered at Joseph's Tomb by none other than PA policemen as he visited the holy site with fellow yeshiva students. Livnat was the nephew of former Minister Limor Livnat (Likud).

The site has often been the target of firebombs and massive riots. The most recent attempt to burn it down took place in late July.