Israeli occupation forces have told told the Palestinian municipality in Hebron that it must agree to the contruction of a new Jewish-only neighbourhood or lose its right to the land.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Defence Minister Naftali Bennett sent a letter on 1 December to the municipality of the Palestinian city, through the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, stating “If it failed to comply within 30 days, legal proceedings would be filed to lift its protected status.”
The plan, which was firstly proposed by the head of Yisrael Beiteinu Avigdor Lieberman, states that the Palestinian municipality must accept the demolition of the wholesale market, located in the Old City, and accept the construction of new – illegal – settlement homes for Jewish settlers.
Haaretz said that the plan would give the Palestinian municipality the right to maintain the ground floor of the new project to use as a market.
The market was closed in 1994 after occupation forces declared the area a closed military zone following protests by the Palestinians who were angered with the settler attack on Al-Ibrahimi Mosque that led to the murder of 29 Palestinian worshippers.
Israeli authorities claim the area was owned by Jews prior to 1948 and the Jordanians, who then ruled the West Bank leased it to Hebron municipality through a protected tenancy.
After the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israeli authorities transferred the area to the custodian for abandoned property while the municipality remained a protected tenant.
Haaretz reported Samer Shehadeh, who represents the municipality, saying: “This letter is akin to a threat and an attempt to pressure the municipality to grant its consent to the move, but it will never happen.”
It also reported the Israeli NGO Peace Now saying: “The legal acrobatics have reached new heights when it comes to expanding the settlements.”
“Ethical standards are being trampled to satisfy an extremist minority that wishes to deepen control and entrench the apartheid that exists in the Hebron settlement. This is an additional example proving the extent to which the occupation is messianic.”