Netanyahu promises sovereignty over Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs

A Jewish state without the Tomb of the Patriarchs is like Washington without the Lincoln Memorial, said Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.

The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and to the Jewish community of Hebron, during a visit to the nearby West Bank Kiryat Arba settlement on Thursday.
“We will apply Israeli sovereignty over Kiryat Arba and the Jewish community in Hebron, including the Tomb of the patriarchs and the roads that lead to it,” Netanyahu said.
“Only we [the Likud] can do this,” the prime minister said as he stood in a white tent set up to celebrate the inauguration of a new neighborhood in Kiryat Arba called Nofei Cramim with 210 homes.
All West Bank settlements are slated to become part of sovereign Israel under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, but according to the map, the status of Jewish Hebron and the Tomb is unclear.
Netanyahu’s statement about sovereignty over the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Jewish Hebron is the clearest statement he has made to date on the matter. During the last election campaign he visited Hebron and delivered a speech in front of the Tomb without once mentioning the word sovereignty.
The US has asked Israel to hold off on the application of sovereignty to West Bank settlements, something which is permissible under the Trump peace plan, until after a joint US-Israel committee has completed a detailed map of the territory that could be annexed.
That mapping process “begins this week with a meeting of the joint US-Israeli committee.”
The campaign stop, made just eight days before the March 2nd election, was designed to show right-wing voters that only the Likud could make their wish list come true, particularly the application of sovereignty over the settlements.
Netanyahu also made additional pledges. He said he was authorizing the construction of an elevator to the Tomb of the Patriarchs so that it could be wheel-chair accessible. Earlier at the same event in Kiryat Arba Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said the project was ready to go and just needed Netanyahu’s approval.
“It’s a humanitarian act and an act of sovereignty,” Netanyahu said.
He also promised to build another new neighborhood in Kiryat Arba and promised thousands of additional new homes in Judea and Samaria.
The prime minister also repeated the pledge he made last week to expand the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa by 2,200 new units and to create a new neighborhood of 4,000 homes on the nearby Givat Hamatos. Some 1,000 of these homes would be for Arab residents of the city and 3,000 of those homes would be for Jewish resident.
In Kiryat Arba Netanyahu promised to issue tenders for 1,000 units of the Givat Hamatos project, the presumption being that these would be for Jewish homes.
Pounding on the podium and raising his voice, Netanyahu said that those who want a right-wing government must vote Likud, and only a large Likud can secure sovereignty.
“Who built Har Homa?,” Netanyahu asked referencing the fact that he was the one that created the neighborhood in 1997. “It was empty and now it is like a small city in Israel,” Netanyahu said.
If the Likud Party is not elected then the opportunity to apply sovereignty given to Israel by the “Deal of the Century” will be lost, Netanyahu said.
Prior to Netanyahu’s speech, Bennett also spoke of the importance of sovereignty over the Tomb of the Patriarchs, noting that a Jewish state without that biblical site, is like Washington without the Lincoln Memorial.
Unlike Netanyahu, Bennett was critical of the portion of the Trump plan that calls for the creation of a Palestinian state, albeit a demilitarized one.
The defense minister noted that “the plan speaks 159 times of a Palestinian state and references Israeli sovereignty” only 13 times.
“I strongly oppose the giving of even one inch of land to the Arabs,” Bennett said.
After visiting Kiryat Arba, Netanyahu stopped with his wife to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs where they lit candles.
In addition to his Kiryat Arba and Hebron visit, Netanyahu also allowed for 12 unauthorized outposts to be connected to the electricity grid, a move that is seen as a step toward legalization.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu tweeted on Sunday that he decided to expunge the criminal records of tens of thousands of Israelis who used cannabis.
“[Justice] Minister [Amir] Ohana began work on the issue and will lead a committee which will include [medical and legal] professionals… to examine introducing the Canadian model to regulate a legal [cannabis] market in Israel.”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz responded that Netanyahu had been “selling illusions” for years to those who need medical cannabis. Blue and White MK Yair Lapid responded to the news saying he supports legalization, but what Netanyahu did not do in his 14 years in office he will never get done.
Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.