Friday, August 31, 2012

Hebron, Not Jerusalem, Will Be the Key Issue if the Palestinian Arabs Ever Change Their Stripes

This was published as a letter to the editor in the Waterbury Republican-American on Friday, August 31, 2012, under the title "Future of Hebron in Israel Is Sticking Point in Talks."

The Aug. 27 article "Market stalls at heart of fight for Hebron" brings up a generally ignored reality: If the Palestinian Arabs ever give up their goal of destroying Israel and decide to try to live in peace, the thorniest issue will be Hebron, not Jerusalem.

Except as a tool for fomenting anti-Israel fanaticism, Jerusalem has never been all that important to the Palestinian Arabs; indeed, it was generally ignored when the Old City, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, was under Jordanian occupation and Jews barred from their holiest sites. A key signal from the Palestinian Arabs that they are finally interested in peace would be for them to drop their outrageous demand that Jerusalem be redivided.

Hebron is a different matter. Geographically, it is within those areas that naturally would go to the Palestinian Arabs. On the other hand, it is historically and religiously the second most important city to the Jewish people, far more important to Jews than Jerusalem is to Muslims.

Hebron, also known in the Bible as Kiryat Arba, contains Me'arat ha-Machpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs, the burial site of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. Indeed, the sale of that burial site by the Hittites to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, is probably the earliest recorded real estate transaction in history.

Even with goodwill, something the Palestinian Arabs have yet to demonstrate, resolving the conflict between the physical location of Hebron and its importance to the Jewish people will be extremely difficult.

Alan Stein

The writer is president emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting;

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