Benjamin Netanyahu AP 21.11.2010
Benjamin Netanyahu during weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Nov. 21, 2010. Photo by AP
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A Palestinian Authority report claiming the Western Wall was not a Jewish holy site and was, in fact, sacred to Muslims poses a serious question as to the Palestinian's desire to reach a peace deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

The prime minister's rebuke came in the wake of a report released by a senior PA official on Wednesday which said the Western Wall had no religious significance to Jews and is in fact, holy Muslim property.

Al-Mutawakil Taha, deputy minister of information in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank, told The Associated Press that his five-page study published on a Palestinian government website reflected the official Palestinian position.

In a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday, Netanyahu severely criticized the PA-sponsored study, saying that "denying the link binding the Jewish people and the Western Wall by the Palestinian information office is a travesty."

"When the Palestinians Authority denies the connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall it raises serious questions as to its intentions to reach a peace deal founded on coexistence and mutual recognition," the statement said, adding that the PA must cease its "distortion of historical facts and encourage a bridge to peace that would lead to a historical reconciliation between the two peoples.

Part of the report released by the Palestinians on Wednesday disputes that the Western Wall was a retaining wall of the Temple compound, discarding centuries of documentation and archaeology.

"This wall has never been a part of what is called the Jewish Temple," the report claimed. "However, it was Islamic tolerance which allowed the Jews to stand before it and cry over its loss."

The report concludes that since Jews have no claim to the area, it is holy Muslim territory and must be part of Palestinian Jerusalem.