Top Palestinian Official Condemns Israeli Cabinet Meeting in 'Occupied East Jerusalem'

Saeb Erekat says holding the weekly ministerial meeting in the tunnels under the Western Wall was a provocation at the beginning of Ramadan

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the cabinet for its weekly meeting in the tunnels below the Western Wall, May 28, 2017.
Emil Salman

The head of the Palestine Liberation Organization expressed anger on Sunday at the Israeli government's decision to hold its weekly ministerial meeting in the tunnels below the Western Wall.

Dr. Saeb Erekat, the PLO's secretary general, said in a statement that the act was 'sabotaging international efforts' and condemned the meeting as a provocation at the beginning of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

The tunnels, a series of subterranean spaces under the Western Wall plaza, have been an ongoing source of tension between Israelis and Palestinians. Although they were never excavated under the Temple Mount, Palestinians claimed that Israeli authorities were digging under the mosques on the holy site to weaken their foundations and eventually destroy them.

Noting that it was held in "occupied East Jerusalem," Erekat called the meeting in the tunnels "an attempt by the Israeli government to normalize occupation, oppression and colonization over the land and people of Palestine."

Erekat said that after 50 years of occupation, Israel's clear message to the Palestinians is "that the systematic violations of their inalienable rights are going to continue."

The statement also blamed Israel's "unprecedented culture of impunity" on countries that enabled its "illegal actions" by making sure it would not face consequences, including at UNESCO. The Old City of Jerusalem is on the UN cultural body's list of World Heritage sites.

The statement concluded by calling on the international community and especially countries who have a stake in Jerusalem to assume responsibility for "respecting of the status quo of the holy sites" in the city.