As peace talks teeter, three families move into what will be the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s – with the full support and blessing of the army.
Three Israeli settler families moved into a contested home in the West Bank Palestinian city of Hebron, following a years-long legal battle and culminating on Sunday with the authorization of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The new, fortress-like building signifies the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s.
The building in question, which is strategically placed between the Old City of Hebron and the major Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, can house some 20 families.
Palestinians claim that the property was purchased using forged documents, but Israel’s Supreme Court rejected that claim. Settlers buy Palestinian land through straw companies, the most famous of which is named Al Wattan (homeland in Arabic). (Read more about fraudulent settler land purchase tactics here.)
The army on Sunday was present for the settlers’ move-in to the building, which Palestinians call the Rajbi building and settlers call the “Peace House” and “House of Contention.” The move was to designed to allow the settlers to move in on time to hold a Passover seder on Monday night, although the timing in relation to the peace process should not be written off entirely.
The move-in was not only protected by the Israeli army; soldiers even helped connect the building to a water supply, an act of compassion and free labor that thousands of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley and south Hebron Hills could only dream of.
Along with being one of the ugliest examples of military occupation, and one of its only urban instances, Hebron is often times portrayed as “complicated” because it was a city where Jews and Muslims historically coexisted.
Make no mistake, however. Today’s Jewish settlers in Hebron want nothing of the sort.
Reacting to the settlers moving back into the contested home on Sunday, Hebron chief rabbi Dov Lior said, “real peace will be when the nations of the world recognize the exclusive right of the Jewish people to this land,” Haaretz reported.
Co-founder of Breaking the Silence, a group of former IDF soldiers who served in Hebron, put out the following statement:
Six hundred and fifty IDF soldiers and border policemen defend the extremist settlements in Hebron today. As soldiers who served in the city, we know a new Hebron settlement will require the deployment of additional troops to conduct missions, including closing down roads, shutting down shops and instilling a sense of being pursued among the local Palestinian inhabitants. The significance of populating the “House of Contention” must be recognized as another submission to extremist groups and an acceleration of the silent transfer of Palestinians from Hebron’s city center.
Read +972’s special coverage on the 20th anniversary of the Ibrahim Mosque massacre in Hebron here.