The ongoing and intense settlement activity in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron confirms Israel's deliberate policy to empty it of its Arab inhabitants and Judaise it. The Palestinian city remains the second most targeted area for illegal Jewish settlements after Jerusalem. The first settlement activity in the West Bank was the establishment of the Kfar Etzion kibbutz in the strategic area bordering Hebron.
We can say with certainty that Israel's plans for the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron are no less dangerous than its Judaisation plans for Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Over the years, the Israeli settlers have turned a major section of the mosque into a synagogue. We do not doubt that the settlers intend to take over completely in the months and years ahead.
Perhaps it was precisely for that reason that the Israeli government announced recently a new settlement plan targeting the heart of Hebron in order to link the settlements built across the city by means of new illegal blocs. The government is funding the construction of a settlement on Al-Shuhada Street in the old city, taking advantage of Donald Trump's Presidency in the US to adopt and "legitimise" its settlement policy in Palestine, even though all Jewish settlements across the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. This is especially the case in Hebron and Jerusalem, which are both earmarked for even more Judaisation.
The purpose of the latest settlement outpost in Hebron is to create a new military checkpoint to harass and increase the suffering of the Palestinians prior to their eventual expulsion. The site on Al-Shuhada Street belongs to the Hebron municipality. The occupation authorities confiscated it for use as an army base and a location for settlers' caravans. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the announcement of the 31 settlement units to be built in the heart of Al-Shuhada Street, approved by the so-called Civil Administration and Israeli government, and funded by the latter.
A few months ago Lieberman ordered the establishment of an authority to manage the municipal affairs of the settlement bloc located in the centre of Hebron. This is a Judaisation measure taken against the city's Palestinian inhabitants with the purpose of strengthening the powers of the settlers who had previously managed their daily affairs by means of a council, which had no "legal" status.
Israel has portrayed this as being necessary to strengthen the Jewish community in the city and as a very important move in order to continue and develop settlement expansion in the West Bank, despite the existence of Palestinian-Israeli arrangements agreed in 1997 that divided Hebron into two parts. The first was the 80 per cent of the city under the complete jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority while the remaining 20 per cent was supposed to be under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control. Since then, the entire city was supposed to have been under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Hebron municipality (with a population of 260,000 Palestinians and 800 Jewish settlers).
For the purpose of Judaising Hebron and displacing its indigenous Palestinian people, there have been non-stop attacks since the city's occupation in 1967. There is a consensus among all Israeli parties to establish an administration to manage settler affairs in the city and to promote settlement activity. This explains Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's practical support for intensifying settlement activity in the West Bank, which is basically an execution of the project to annex Palestinian areas to Israel by means of "legitimate" demarcation and recognition of illegal settlements, along with granting them sovereignty.
It is a well-known fact that the establishment of settlements violates all international principles and customs, as well as the UN Charter, which outlines a long series of restrictions imposed on any occupying forces, including Israel's. The essence of this bans occupiers from settling their own citizens in areas under occupation. This has been reiterated by UN Resolutions which deny any legal status to the Jewish settlements and ban their annexation by Israel. Indeed, the resolutions call for the dismantling of the settlements, not simply "freezing" settlement activity. The settlements in Jerusalem and Hebron are covered by this requirement.
Israel's construction of additional settlements, and expansion of existing sites, violate Palestinian rights and international laws and conventions. The decision to build settlement blocs in Hebron and establish a council to manage Jewish settler affairs in the city breaches UN Security Council Resolution 2334. Israel should be condemned for treating international law with such contempt.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 8 November 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.