Hebron Jews can move into a building next to the spot where a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said just hours after the attack in a statement that spoke of the need to fight terror and support West Bank settlements.
His decision expands the Jewish areas of the West Bank city, and allows an Israeli civilian presence in a Palestinian neighborhood next to the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The move comes just one week before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is set to meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, their first face to face conversation since Israeli Palestinian negotiations were resumed in July.
But the death of two Israeli soldiers by Palestinians in the last few days, and continued Israeli settlement activity, have threatened to destroy the fledgling talks.
Just past midnight, Netanyahu said, “Those who attempt to uproot us from the city of our forefathers will achieve the opposite effect. We will continue on one hand to fight terror and to harm terrorists and on the other hand to strengthen settlements.”
Hebron’s Jewish community had purchased a three-story building across from the Cave of the Patriarchs, known as Beit Hamachpela, and moved at the end of March 2012. The IDF forcibly evicted them on April 4, because their purchase documents had not been authenticated and they lacked a purchase permit.
In July of this year, a military appeals court validated their purchase of the structure, which abuts a Palestinian school and borders a section of the city under Palestinian Authority control. Palestinians live in a small section of the building, which was not purchased by settlers.
But in spite of their court victory, the Hebron families were still barred from moving into their property, because they lacked a final signature of approval from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
It is now expected that this signature will be forthcoming.
Hebron’s Jewish community thanked Netanyahu for his decision and for working to return Jews to the city of their forefathers.
But settler leaders and right wing politicians on Sunday said that stronger steps were needed such as stopping direct negotiations with the PA and halting any goodwill gestures that involve the release of Palestinians prisoners.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) said, “We have to freeze the negotiations until [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen and the Palestinian leadership condemn the terrorist incidents of the last few days. I told the prime minister that he can’t negotiate with those who support terror.”
Avi Ro’eh who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said “All ministers have a responsibility to stop talks with the PA that fosters incitement and to rescind the decision to additional terrorists [in stages during the coming months].”
The murder of two Israeli soldiers in the last few days shows that the Palestinians do not identify with the PA’s diplomatic policies and hope instead that increased violence would yield results, Ro’eh said.
He warned that Israel could see more “victims of peace,” in wave of violence that has typically accompanied negotiation periods.