Ha’aretz writer Yotam Berger, who on Monday reported on the new housing construction project planned for Jewish Hebron, followed his story with a tweet addressed to @White-House, in which he noted (in Hebrew), “For your information, the State is planning new construction in the Jewish settlement in Hebron.” Although it’s puzzling why Berger didn’t tweet in English, or ask someone at the paper’s English language website to help him translate, the panicky urgency of the tweet is unmistakable.
Monday’s report was followed Tuesday morning with a leading editorial titled, “Provocation in Hebron,” which warns that “Hebron is a permanent focal point for tension and confrontations between Jews and Palestinians. Any change in the urban structure and any additional Jewish presence in the city would only increase the potential for violence and the Palestinian protest. Those who complain day and night about Palestinian incitement cannot wash their hands of responsibility when they approve a construction project that is unmatched in its capacity to cause rage and hatred.”
The same editorial accuses Israel of “robbing lands” and Prime Minister Netanyahu of lying when he says he wants to negotiate peace because he is creating facts on the ground that would increase the demand for concessions on the PA.
The part about robbing lands is a purely pro-Arab perspective on the acquisition of the land for the new construction. The fact is that Ha’aretz’s own report on Monday cites Hebron spokesman Noam Arnon, who said the lands to be used have been owned by Jews since before 1948. “The area has always been known as belonging to the Jewish community, and if they return to living there I’m sure every justice-loving person would rejoice about it,” Arnon said.
What Ha’aretz and Peace Now, as well as the Arabs, are objecting to is the fact that in a situation where the slated area is comprised of Jewish owned lands and lands that were confiscated by the IDF back in 1983, the Jews will win out. The Jewish owned land will be turned into Jewish housing, while the confiscated land — where the city of Hebron used to maintain a central bus station that has been relocated in 1983 — that land remains confiscated.
So, according to Ha’aretz, the Jews who utilize their legally owned lands are robbers, because the IDF is holding on to lands that were confiscated from the Arab municipality.
The Israeli Supreme Court in 1979 ruled that land that was confiscated by the IDF for military purposes cannot be turned over for Jewish settlement. And so Ha’aretz, the anti-Israel NGOs and, supposedly, some Arabs, are implying that the Jews of Hebron have somehow violated the court ruling, which they never have done.
The decision to permit new housing construction in H2 (the Jewish sliver of Hebron) was made under the Moshe Ya’alon administration at the Defense Ministry, and it has now been confirmed by his successor, Avigdor Liberman. It isn’t clear how many housing units can be pushed into the area, which is about half an acre, including the military-confiscated parts which are verboten. Unless they build a high riser, the common land use for half an acre of suburban housing is between 15 and 25 units. If that many homes for Jews have the power to derail peace negotiations then maybe Israel should think the entire peace process on account of facing unimaginably rigid partners.