WASHINGTON Nov 30 The U.S. State Department
condemned on Tuesday an official Palestinian report last week
asserting that Jerusalem's Western Wall, one of Judaism's
holiest sites, is not Jewish.
Al-Mutawakil Taha, deputy information minister in the
Palestinian Authority, published a five-page study disputing
Jews' reverence of the shrine as a retaining wall of the
compound of Biblical Jewish Temples destroyed centuries ago.
"We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them
as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative,"
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.
"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 added.
Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said
that "denial of the connection between the Jewish people and
the Western Wall by the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of
Information is baseless and scandalous."
The wall is adjacent to a politically sensitive holy
complex in a part of Jerusalem that Israel captured in a 1967
war. The area, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims
as Haram al-Sharif, is home to al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of
In the report, Taha wrote the Western wall is a "Muslim
wall and an integral part of al-Aqsa mosque and Haram
al-Sharif," a position echoing past statements by the late
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Taha issued the document after Israel approved a five-year
renovation plan for the Western Wall area on Nov. 21.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem, where the Western Wall is
located, after the 1967 conflict and claimed all of Jerusalem
as its capital in a move that has not won international
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of the
state they want to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
U.S.-brokered peace talks are supposed to address the issue
of Jerusalem, but the negotiations were put on hold by the
Palestinians soon after they began in September when Netanyahu
refused to extend a partial building freeze in West Bank
(Reporting by Emily Stephenson; editing by Mohammad Zargham)