UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The right-wing Israeli defense minister has ordered officials to begin planning for a new Jewish settlement in the heart of the West Bank city of Hebron.
The Israeli Defense Ministry said on Sunday that Bennett had instructed the administration in the occupied West Bank “to notify the Hebron municipality of planning a new Jewish neighborhood in the wholesale market complex.”
The decision to build the settlement in Hebron comes amid political turmoil in Israel after legislative elections ended in April and September without a decisive victory.
The market area is located on Al-Shuhada Street in Hebron, which was a pulsating street leading to a sacred site where Prophet Ibrahim and his wife Sarah were believed to have been buried.
But the street has been closed for decades to Palestinians who have repeatedly demanded it be opened to traffic.
The move comes weeks after the United States said it no longer considered settlements illegal.
The city, considered sacred to both Muslims and Jews, is a hot spot for clashes between the two sides.
The clashes extend to the villages around the city.
On Saturday, a Palestinian was killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes in the village of Beit Awwa near Hebron.
Clashes between the Palestinians and the Israeli army occur in the occupied West Bank, where many settlements are located.
Minister Bent said the move would double the Jewish population of the city.
Around 800 Israeli settlers live in Hebron under tight military protection and among 200,000 Palestinians.
The move angered Palestinians who accused the US administration of highlighting a similar move after its recent decision.
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, said the decision was “one of the preliminary results of the Trump administration’s attempt to legitimize settlements.”
“The next step in this approach will be annexation,” he said.
The United Nations considers the settlements established on the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967 to be illegal, and much of the international community sees them as a major obstacle to peace.
The anti-settlement movement Peace Now condemned the decision as “the ugly face of Israeli control in the occupied territories.”
The movement said Israel “sealed off entire streets in Hebron to the Palestinians and deprived them of freedom of movement in order to maintain the presence of 800 settlers among a quarter of a million Palestinians.”
Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, where some 400,000 Israelis live in settlements built on Palestinian land. The number of Palestinians now stands at around three million.
– Gain votes –
Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his allies such as Bennett nor their opponents won enough seats in parliament to form a coalition.
Knesset members must find a solution before December 11 or dissolve parliament again and call new elections, the third in a year.
Naftali Bennett’s “new right” party derives the most support from more than 600,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
A statement by a settler organization in Hebron praised Bennett’s decision.
“This decision brings life to Jewish property in Hebron,” the organization said in a statement.
At Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu pledged 40 million shekels ($ 11.5 million) to improve security services in the settlements.
“We are working to strengthen the security components of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria,” the outgoing prime minister said, using biblical terms for the West Bank.
West Bank settlements are illegal under international law and are strongly opposed by Palestinians.
Netanyahu visited Hebron in September for the first time since taking office as prime minister in 2009.
The Palestinians condemned the visit as provocative and deliberate.
But the prime minister defended it, saying the city was of historic importance to Jews.
“We are not strangers in Hebron, we will stay there forever.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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