Erekat slams Israel cabinet meeting at Western Wall

TEL AVIV: The special Israeli cabinet meeting held at the Western Wall on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War is a “provocation,” top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said.
“Today’s meeting in occupied East Jerusalem is an attempt by the Israeli government to normalise occupation, oppression and colonisation,” said Erekat, a leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in a statement.
The meeting sends “a clear message” that Israel will continue to violate Palestinians’ rights, he added.
The Israeli government marked the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War on Sunday by holding a meeting at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City instead of the Knesset building less than 5 km away.
Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, among other territories, during the Six-Day War in 1967, and its leaders have long considered Jerusalem to be its undivided, eternal capital.
However, the city is not internationally recognised as such due to the fact that the Palestinian Authority would like to make East Jerusalem the capital of an eventual independent state.
Among the projects announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday was the building of a cable car that would make it easier for tourists to reach the entrance of the Western Wall area, which sits in East Jerusalem.
They also approved an elevator and underground passage to the area from the Jewish Quarter.
The Western Wall, also known as the Kotel, is an ancient retaining wall that sits at the foot of the Temple Mount. Known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, the site is considered one of the holiest in Islam and Judaism. Construction projects near the Temple Mount have caused tension in the past.
Netanyahu’s decision to open an archaeological tunnel there during his first term in 1996 led to violence in the Palestinian Territories. It was in this tunnel that the Israeli cabinet held its special meeting on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Ayoob Kara, a minister in his Likud party, as communications minister, to oversee Israel’s telecom market as it undergoes significant reforms.
Netanyahu himself held the post until he relinquished it in February amid allegations he had negotiated a deal with a newspaper owner for good press coverage.
The communications ministry has oversight of the telecoms and broadcast media industries.
The cabinet has approved the appointment of Kara, who was previously a minister without portfolio, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
Netanyahu kept the communications portfolio for himself after re-election in 2015, but shortly after gave up much of the job’s responsibility when he was barred from dealing with Israel’s largest telecom provider, Bezeq, due to his personal friendship with the company’s chairman.
Netanyahu stepped down from the role completely three months ago after being questioned by police over allegations he tried to secure a deal with the owner of Israel’s best-selling newspaper for better coverage.
He did not give an official reason for stepping down. — Agencies