On Monday, tourism minister Uzi Landau told Army Radio that Israel should freeze its participation in the talks until the Palestinian Authority condemns the soldier killings. But Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said the slayings were not a reason to abandon the peace process, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
Netanyahu did not directly address the talks in a statement Sunday night. But he said Israel will continue to battle against militants who would do it harm, including by expanding the Jewish presence in Hebron — believed to be the burial place of the biblical Abraham, a patriarch to both faiths, as well as Isaac, Sarah and Rebecca — and other parts of the West Bank.
“Those who try to uproot us from the City of the Patriarchs will achieve the opposite,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to fight terrorism and strike at terrorists on the one hand and strengthen settlement with the other.”
In a letter delivered Monday night, seven government ministers called on Netanyahu to rethink releasing Palestinian prisoners as part of the current U.S.-led peace talks.
Spearheaded by Economy and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennett, the letter was also signed by Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, Senior Citizens’ Affairs Minister Uri Orbach, and Minister of Immigration and Absorption Sofa Landver.
The order issued Sunday night applies to the house known as Beit Hamachpela, which was purchased by members of Hebron’s Jewish community in 2012. The purchase was validated after a court hearing this year, but the families were waiting for a final approval from government authorities before moving in.
They would be the first Israeli citizens in the Palestinian part of the city’s ancient quarter. The house is just yards from the holy site known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque. The book of Genesis describes Abraham purchasing the site in order to bury his wife Sarah after her death.
The soldier killed Sunday was 1st Sgt. Gal (Gabriel) Koby, 20, from Tirat Carmel, near the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Koby was manning a military post that guards a Jewish settlement in Hebron’s ancient quarter, adjacent to the burial site. The site is a popular pilgrimage destination for Jews during the Sukkot holiday, which started Wednesday evening and continues this week.