Why Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu repeats his errors

ScreenHunter_04 Mar. 03 06.59 By all accounts, Benjamin Netanyahu devoted very little thought to the two final sites added to a list of designated heritage sites set to benefit from a large government restoration budget. Never mind that the Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, is located in the West Bank town of Hebron. Likewise, Rachel's Tomb is in Bethlehem — also occupied territory. Just before Sunday's Cabinet meeting, rightist ministers noticed that the two shrines, regarded as the burial places of the biblical ancestors of the Jewish people, were missing from the list. They leaned a bit on Netanyahu, he added the tombs, and the Cabinet unanimously approved the plan.

From there, the reaction followed as if part of the playbill. Palestinian protests in Hebron turned into confrontations between demonstrators and troops that have grown larger each day. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described the heritage designation as a “unilateral decision to make Palestinian sites in Hebron and Bethlehem part of Israel,” and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned that the move “could cause a holy war.” A State Department spokesman condemned the Israeli step as “provocative.”

You might expect Netanyahu to be careful about playing with holy fire. In September 1996, early in his previous term as prime minister, he approved opening a tunnel alongside the Temple Mount, otherwise known as Haram al-Sharif. That set off a week-long mini war between Israel and Palestinians. How could he so easily give in to pressure and repeat the mistake of asserting ownership of contested holy places? While we're at it, how does a country declare that a place outside its borders is a national heritage site?

More here.