File photograph: Hebron (Peter Tkac)
Just a weeks after the United States declared that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank would not be an infringement of international law, Israel’s defence minister, Naftali Bennett, announced a plan to “double the number of Jewish residents” in Hebron.
Local media reports state the plan, announced on Friday last week, involves dismantling the existing wholesale market and replacing it with a new neighbourhood. Israel’s defence ministry was reported to have announced it would “double” the Jewish population of the region. The plan has been heavily criticised by many Palestinian officials; the Hebron Mayor Taysir Abu Sneineh was quick to warn the defence ministry of the tension that may arise in the dangerous flashpoint region as a result of the move and vowed to protect Palestinian citizens and properties at all cost.
Currently, there are an estimated 200,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Jews living in the city which is split into two areas – H1 and H2. H2 is heavily militarised thus, Palestinian residents have restrictions on movement imposed by the army.
Former chief negotiator and senior Palestinian official, Dr Saeb Erekat, voiced his disapproval of the plan by highlighting the move as the “first tangible result of Washington’s decision to legitimize colonization” and urged the international community to implement sanctions against the Israeli settlements.
Tamar Zanberg, member of the Knesset for the Democratic Union, also slammed the move by describing the defence secretary as a “messianist” and disapproved building a Jewish neighbourhood in the “capital of Israel’s apartheid”.
However, the news was applauded by Jewish settlers of Hebron, who believe it is long-awaited justice for the dozens of Jewish residents that were forced to evacuate in 1929.
Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated on the West Bank to object against the recent US decision to legalise Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, which has threatened the efforts towards a two-state solution.