Thursday, September 24, 2020

Netanyahu makes a plea to strengthen the settlements in West Bank

By Leona Vicario - September 25, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Hebron] [protests]

Bab il Zawyeh, a square in downtown Hebron, during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, on September 24th, 2013. The square is near a checkpoint at entrance of the H2 area. Photo by Vivian Calle.

On Sunday, 22 September, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made public his decision to allow settlers to move back into the Machpelah house in the Old City of Hebron. Netanyahu's decision comes just days after an Israeli soldier was shot and killed just blocks away from the contested house by a Palestinian sniper.

Although Netanyahu does not officially have the authority to approve such a decision, he demanded the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA - the governing body of Israel’s occupation in the West Bank) to spare no efforts allowing allow the settler's return. "Anyone who tries to uproot us from the city of our patriarchs will achieve the opposite. We will continue to fight terrorism with one hand, while strengthening the settlement with the other," Netanyahu said in a statement released on Sunday. 
Days after Netanyahu's press release, the state told the Israeli High Court of Justice that Netanyahu's remarks were not official, but instead,  a personal expression of his position after the events. The controversial resolution centers on a group of settlers who, after allegedly purchasing the building legally, were evicted last April by order of the ICA. The ICA nullified the purchase after finding "bureaucratic faults" in the transaction. The eviction order came by way of the Israeli Ministry of Defence. 
The settlers subsequently issued a complaint, arguing the purchase was approved by a Military Court inside the Occupied Territories during the summer of 2012. 
Under the system of martial law employed by the state of Israel in the West Bank, any real estate transaction must be officially approved by an Israeli army commander, according to Haaretz.
On Tuesday, 24 September, a spokesman of the Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon told The Jerusalem Post that the Minister has authorized the purchase although they still cannot move in until all the bureaucratic process comes to an end. 
Two Israeli soldiers killed in West Bank
Netanyahu's announcement comes on the heals of the deaths of two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank last week.
Last Saturday, the corpse of an Israeli soldier, Tomer Hazan, was found in a well close to Qalqiliya. A Palestinian man, Nidal Amer, confessed to killing the soldier in an alleged attempt to use his body in a negotiation process to release his imprisoned brother, according to the Israeli Army.   
On Sunday, Gal Kobi was killed while on duty between checkpoint 209 and 229 during the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Kobi was reportedly shot in the neck by a Palestinian sniper who has not yet been found. 
Local witnesses, however, question the Israeli Army's version of the events that led up to Netanyahu's call to strengthen the settlements. "Some clashes broke up in the city cause(sic) the people were angry after the soldiers closed down all the business in town, not because of the presence of Jews," Sarha, an activist for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) told Palestine Monitor. 
But in her words, later on, the situation calmed down. "At 6.15 pm both sides were quiet, in silence. We were in a crossroad between the checkpoints 209 and 29. I was sitting on a corner, beside a clinic, and I saw new soldiers arriving. Moments after, one of them put his hands around his neck; he seemed like suffocating," Sarha related. 
"I couldn´t hear anything or see any projectile. Just realized that the soldier has something in the left side of his neck, but I couldn´t see even blood," Sarha remembered. Immediately, a military jeep came and brought the soldier to a hospital in Jerusalem.
Subsequently, the Israeli Army declared Hebron a "closed military area" and strong clashes between soldiers and Palestinians erupted throughout the city, as soldiers ransacked nearby homes in search of the assailant. 
Stopping the prisoners release
After the murder, the Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennet penned a letter to PM Netanyahu asking for the reconsideration of the basis of the peace talks that Israel and the Palestinians resumed  in July 2013. In particular, Bennet sought to cancel the oncoming release of the second group of former Palestinian prisoners (imprisoned before the Oslo Accords)scheduled for October.
"Since the release of terrorists has been tied to progress in peace talks from the get go, there is no doubt that some developments since the launch of negotiations require the government to rethink its path. The answer to terror must be war on murderers and not dialogue with those who encourage murderers," said Bennet. Another six Israeli ministers have since joined in the initiative.   
According to Ma'an News Agency, the Israeli cabinet held a special session late on Monday to discuss the proposal, yet  the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Benny Gants,has said that the murders would not affect the government's commitment to release old prisoners.

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