Israel has announced a plan for a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims and is a longtime flashpoint for violence. Palestinian officials condemned the move.
Israel’s new defense minister Nafatali Bennet announced his approval for a new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron, where about 1000 Jews live surrounded by 200,000 Palestinians. He said the settlement, which will be built near the city’s old market, will double the number of Jewish settlers in Hebron. He also said it will create “territorial continuity” between an existing Jewish neighborhood and the holy site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which Muslims call the Ibrahimi mosque.
The announcement said that the market’s buildings will be demolished and replaced with new stores. It said Palestinians who own ground floor shops will receive the new shops.
Jewish hardliners welcomed the move. The Jewish Committee of Hebron called it an act of historic justice, saying the market has been under Jewish ownership since the early 19th century.
But Palestinians sharply condemned the Israeli decision. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed the US for the move, saying it was quote “the first tangible result of the US decision to legitimize colonization.”
He was referring to a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are not illegal according to international law. That is a major change in US policy, but has been rejected by much of the international community.
“The statements of Secretary Pompeo, as far as we’re concerned, is null and void. It’s an absolute departure of the Trump administration from the squares of international law. And once you depart from the squares of international law you open the squares of chaos, terrorism, extremism, violence and corruption,” said Erekat.
Hebron has long been a focus for clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. In 1994, an American-born Jewish settler opened fire inside the mosque killing 29 Palestinians. In 1929, Palestinians killed more than 60 Jews in Hebron.