The Israeli government says it is moving forward on a plan to invest in places it considers part of Israel's national heritage, including nine West Bank sites.
Israeli Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser says Israel is adding handicapped access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site in the West Bank city of Hebron sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The announcement comes a week before Israeli elections and could appeal to hard-line voters.
Hauser said Monday that Israel has an obligation to renovate the sites, and it is not related to politics.
The U.S.¬ objected to Israel's initial 2010 announcement on the plan, saying it impeded peace efforts. Palestinian protesters later clashed with Israeli troops in Hebron, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned the move could spark a religious war.
In 2010, Haaretz learnt that Benjamin Netanyahu's government was considering a five-year plan costing NIS 500 million to renovate and preserve national heritage and infrastructure sites, in an attempt to strengthen ties between global Jewry and Israel's historical and Zionist legacy.
Rough details of the plan were first revealed by Haaretz a month beforehand, and Netanyahu paid it special attention in his address to the Herzliya Conference several weeks before.
"The guarantee of Israel's continued existence lies not only in weapons systems, or in the strength of our army, or in our economic strength and inventiveness, our exports, or in any of the other crucial factors," the premier told the conference.
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