The Palestinians’ decision to use the United Nations to claim Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs as their own heritage site is a direct slap to President Donald Trump, who is attempting to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Earlier this year, Trump decided to delay the long-promised move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, for fear of upsetting the Palestinians. But that did not stop the Palestinians from making their own move.
The idea that the Tomb of the Patriarchs is “Palestinian” is absurd. For thousands of years — long before Islam even existed — it has been among the holiest sites in Judaism, and also the oldest. According to tradition, the Tomb is the grave of the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs — founders of the Jewish faith, and of monotheism itself: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah. (The fourth matriarch, Rachel, is buried near Bethlehem.)
The title deed to the Tomb is provided by the Bible itself, in Genesis 23. Abraham insisted on buying the site, even though the owner was prepared to give it to him as a gift, precisely so that there would never be any confusion in the future about its ownership. Later, King David established his throne in Hebron (II Samuel 5), and Jews lived there for millennia until they were massacred in a 1929 pogrom, returning after Israel’s victory in the 1967 war.
The Tomb is holy to both Muslims and Jews, and access to it is governed by a 1997 agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Rather than building upon that agreement towards a broader peace, the Palestinians have violated the spirit of the Hebron deal. They are not only claiming the Tomb, and the city, as part of a future Palestinian state. They are also claiming the past as part of a mythical Palestinian heritage, displacing the Jews.
The Palestinians’ move on Hebron is toxic to the peace process. But it also destroys any complaint the Palestinians might have against the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Indeed, moving the embassy is suddenly an urgent priority, because the Palestinians clearly intend to continue advancing their claims in Jerusalem and elsewhere. The same UN body (UNESCO) that acted against Hebron last week has also denied the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
As the Jerusalem Post warned Sunday, the resolution on Hebron is only the beginning of a Palestinian diplomatic assault against Israel that uses fabricated history and the UN’s endemic anti-Israel bias to circumvent negotiations.
The Palestinians’ move in Hebron comes as Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has vowed never to end payments to terrorists and their families using U.S. taxpayer money, despite direct requests by President Trump and his emissaries. Clearly the Palestinians have no interest in compromise, nor do they fear the consequences of their provocative behavior, because thus far the U.S. and the world have been unwilling to punish them for it.
Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is a consequence the Palestinians would understand. It need not actually change the status of the city, since the western part of Jerusalem, where Israel’s government is already based, is never going to be under Palestinian control, under any peace agreement contemplated thus far. But it would end, once and for all, the Palestinian and Islamist fantasy that all of Israel will one day fall under Palestinian rule.
Moving the embassy would be a unilateral decision. But as the Palestinians’ own behavior shows, they have no qualms about unilateralism. Ironically, they have given President Trump a perfect opportunity to fulfill his promise.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.