Lieberman shrugs off Palestinian ire over Hebron visit

AFP , Tuesday 15 Jan 2013

Israel's former top diplomat Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday dismissed Palestinian anger over his pre-election visit to Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs, with a spokesman stressing he was only at the Jewish section of the site.

Lieberman, who heads the hardline nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, visited the site which is holy to both Jews and Muslims and under Israeli control on Monday, sparking an angry reaction from the Palestinians who called it a "provocation."

Built over the spot where the biblical figure Abraham is believed buried, the Tomb is known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque, with half of it used as a synagogue.

Lieberman paid a brief visit to the synagogue, read a few psalms, said a prayer, than left, while recalling a similar visit during the 1996 election when he was with the rightwing Likud party which ended up winning and putting Benjamin Netanyahu in office for the first time.

"This same impulse to visit here returned, and before this election, I felt I had to come here," he said in remarks quoted by a spokesman.

Palestinian government spokeswoman Nur Odeh had condemned the visit as "a provocation" by a public Israeli figure known for his "aggression against the Palestinian people and who supports settlement." "We see any attempt by any Israeli to involve religious sites in the confrontation as completely unacceptable," she said.

Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu is running on a joint ticket with Netanyahu's Likud with the list expected to easily win the contest.

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