"Moderate" Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday threatened war over Israel's decision to officially recognize the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb as national heritage sites.
The Cave of the Patriarchs - the burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah - and Rachel's Tomb are both located in areas that are today controlled by the Palestinian Authority, namely, Hebron and Bethlehem.
Speaking to European Union parliamentarians in Brussels, Abbas said that the Israeli cabinet's decision to add those sites to its list of national heritage sites is a "dangerous provocation" that will lead to "religious war."
In practical terms, the decision will not effect any changes in the status of the sites, but rather will give them higher priority for refurbishment and preservation.
"Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarch – the burial place for more than 3,500 years of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people – are certainly worthy of being refurbished and preserved," said Israeli government spokesman Nir Hefetz in a statement released to the press.
Mark Regev, another Israeli government spokesman, noted that denying the Jews their religious and historical ties to the land is not the way to make peace.
"Just as Israel understands the Muslim connection to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, we are entitled to hear from the Palestinian side that they respect our connection to a site that is very important to the Jewish people," Regev was cited by The Jerusalem Post as saying. "It is disappointing to hear other messages from the Palestinian leadership."
As usual, the Palestinians found an ally in the UN regarding this issue.
On Monday, special UN coordinator for the Middle East, Robert Serry said he was deeply concerned by the Jewish state's audacity in officially recognizing its ties to two sites so sacred to Jews.
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