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Religious Parties Will Advise Peace Negotiators on Holy Sites

Representatives from Israel’s religious parties will sever as advisers to Israeli peace negotiators, providing input on future arrangements for Jewish holy sites in the West Bank.

In decision to form the three-member advisory panel was made at the meeting last week between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Knesset members from the religious parties.

The meeting came about after a controversy erupted over reports that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had reached arrangements providing for Palestinian stewardship at Rachel’s Tomb, located south of Jerusalem, as apart of the next phase of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank.

At the meeting on July 25 with representatives of the religious parties, Rabin agreed that security for Rachel’s Tomb would remain under Israeli authority, as would the road connecting the site of Jerusalem.

Avraham Ravitz, a member of the United Torah Judaism Party, said he was satisfied with the outcome of the discussions with Rabin.

“In Rachel’s Tomb, we got almost everything that we had asked for,” he told Israel Radio.

About 22 other religious sites could come up for discussion in the Israeli- Palestinian negotiations. The religious panel would advise in these areas well, Israel Radio reported.

Continuing to express concerned about the future status of the holy sites, thousands of worshipers held a mass vigil at Rachel’s Tomb on July 27.

Organizers of the vigil reportedly said they were grateful to the Israel Defense Force for the heightened security provided to protect the workshipers.

But the organizers also said they believed there would be no such protection if the site were to come under Palestinian administration in the future.

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