The Obama Administration on Wednesday added its voice to those harshly condemning Israel over its official recognition of the Cave of the Patriarch and Rachel's Tomb as national heritage sites.
The Cave of the Patriarch in Hebron - burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah - and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem joined a list of 150 other historical and biblical sites that Israel will give priority to for renovation and preservation.
But because Hebron and Bethlehem are under Palestinian Authority control, the decision has angered the Arab world and prompted threats of "holy war," even by "moderate" Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
That has led international leaders to condemn Israel's decision to officially recognize two sites so sacred to the Jewish people. Though few in Israel expected the US to join in on the latest bash-fest.
Nevertheless, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner labeled Israel's heritage site list a "provocation" and an obstacle to peace.
Israelis have explained that by constantly reprimanding Israel in such terms, the US, the ostensible overseer of peace efforts in the region, is the one making peace more difficult by giving the Palestinians the justification they need to never make true peace with the Jewish state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday responded to the mounting international criticism by pointing out that being added to the heritage list simply means that those sites will receive more attention in terms of preservation, including the Muslim areas at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
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