The Obama administration today strongly condemned a Palestinian official’s claim that the Kosel has no religious significance for Jews and is actually Muslim property.
The State Department said the U.S. rejects the claim as “factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative.” Spokesman P.J. Crowley said statements of that kind damage U.S. efforts to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and could incite violence.
“We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of delegitimization of Israel, including denying historic Jewish connections to the land,” he told reporters.
“As the United States has long maintained, the status of Jerusalem must be resolved in final status negotiations between the parties,” Crowley said. “We recognize that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue to Israelis and Palestinians, to Jews, to Muslims and to Christians everywhere.”
Last week, a senior Palestinian official endorsed a study stating that the Kosel is Muslim property and has no link to Judaism. The study has drawn fierce criticism in Israel but Al-Mutawakil Taha, deputy Palestinian information minister, said the document is the official position of the Palestinian Authority.
Crowley stressed that neither side should do anything to prejudice the negotiations, including unilateral acts in Jerusalem. When pressed, he noted that the United States had also frequently expressed its concerns to Israel about the construction of Jewish housing in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their future capital.
“They both have responsibilities here,” he said. “Both have to take the responsibility to create conditions for negotiations to resume.”
The Palestinians have refused to return to peace talks unless Israel halts Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and stops similar construction in east Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is considering U.S. incentives to implement a three-month slowdown in West Bank building but has refused to consider a halt in east Jerusalem.