Interior Minister Eli Yishai explained on Monday that he opposes a request from the Vatican, received via President Shimon Peres, for Israel to turn over so-called Catholic holy sites to the Church, citing six places.
Yishai stated that “these places belong to the Jewish People,” giving an example of a building in Ir David, stressing that while there is no mitzvah to be spiteful or seek to be abrasive, “we do have an obligation to hold onto areas of Eretz HaKodesh”.
“I cannot say what will be regarding certain areas, areas that have extremely complicated legal status, but like the areas in Ir David, it belongs to us, the Jewish People.”
Regarding future building in Ir David, Yishai made reference to clusters of areas that he hopes to approve continue expansion, adding “today there is a different interior minister than in the previous administration”.
Speaking to party colleagues during a faction meeting, Yishai stated he is not planning such a gift to the pope when he arrives in Israel for his upcoming visit.
The law permits the interior minister to hand over ownership of property and should the prime minister wish to comply with the Vatican request, he would have to persuade Yishai to change his mind or temporarily assume his authority to circumvent his decision.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)