TEL AVIV – The U.S. State Department is deeply concerned about reports of an Israeli government decision to approve initial plans for the construction of 28 Jewish homes in the West Bank city of Hebron, the site of the oldest Jewish community in the world.
When asked about the issue during a press briefing on Tuesday, Deputy State Department spokesman Marc Toner stated:
“Well, we have seen those reports, Said, that the Israelis are considering – plan to build homes for Israeli settlers in a military compound in Hebron. Certainly if these reports are true, it would appear to be an effort to expand civilian Israeli settlement in the city of Hebron, and that would represent a deeply concerning step of settlement expansions – settlement expansion, rather, on land that is at least partially owned by the Palestinians. As you know, we strongly oppose all settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. And we’ve said repeatedly such moves are not consistent with Israel’s stated desire to achieve a two-state solution.”
The Jerusalem Post reported on the specifics of the housing project and the Israeli government’s decision to only green light infrastructure plans for the 28 new homes:
As a first step, infrastructure plans can be drawn up, but the project will still need many more approvals before it can be completed.
[Toner] spoke against the project that would be housed within an existing military base, Plugat Hamitkanim, which is located next to the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva, situated in the old Beit Romano building.
The project, designed for land where six Jewish families now live in caravans, has been put forward by the Jewish community of Hebron along with the Construction and Justice ministries.
Outrageously, Toner called the land “at least partially owned by the Palestinians.” Here, the spokesperson seems to be speaking out of turn, deciding the legal fate of a land plot that is involved in a complicated political history.
Hebron’s Jewish community dates back to Biblical times. The city is the home to the Cave of the Patriarchs, the believed burial site of the tombs of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. The cave is the second holiest site in Judaism.
The issue of the Hebron land in question dates back to 1929, when local Arabs carried out murderous pogroms against the Jews of the city and forced the entire Jewish community to flee. Hebron for the first time in centuries became temporarily devoid of Jews.
The Arabs unilaterally confiscated Jewish property and illegally occupied Jewish homes.
The Jewish Virtual Library reports on the history of the city during that period:
Following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and the invasion by Arab armies, Hebron was captured and occupied by the Jordanian Arab Legion. During the Jordanian occupation, which lasted until 1967, Jews were not permitted to live in the city, nor – despite the Armistice Agreement – to visit or pray at the Jewish holy sites in the city. Additionally, the Jordanian authorities and local residents undertook a systematic campaign to eliminate any evidence of the Jewish presence in the city. They razed the Jewish Quarter, desecrated the Jewish cemetery, and built an animal pen on the ruins of the Avraham Avinu synagogue.
Jews were allowed to return to Hebron in 1967, after Israel captured the city during the defensive Six Day War. Therein lies the current land dispute.
The Jerusalem Post reports on the property in question:
The state explained that the property where the caravans are located belonged to a member of the old Jewish community in Hebron which fled after the 1929 Arab riots in which 67 Jews were massacred.
After the 1948 War of Independence, it passed into the hands of the Jordanian government under the abandoned property law.
The Jordanian Custodian of Abandoned Property then rented it to the Hebron Municipality, which used it as a bus station.
The Israeli Custodian of Abandoned Property continued that rental situation when the IDF took control of the area after the Six Day War in 1967. But in 1983, the IDF seized that property and an adjacent Palestinian lot to create a military base.
In 1991 the Justice Ministry ruled that the Hebron Municipality’s rights to the lot, under a protected lease agreement, had expired and that therefore Jewish homes could be built there. But subsequent legal opinions, including the one in 2007, said that the Hebron Municipality still had protected tenancy rights. These rights, the 2007 opinion stated, were superseded only by security needs, such as the ones that mandated the placement of a military base there.
Meanwhile, while Toner made his comments about Hebron, the Obama administration has been silent on rampant illegal Palestinian construction on Jewish-owned property in eastern sections of Jerusalem, including the construction of dozens of apartment buildings on about 270 acres in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Qalandiya and Kfar Akev, and about 50 acres in a north Jerusalem suburb known as Shoafat. The land is indisputably owned by a U.S.-based Jewish group.
The Palestinian Authority and much of the international community says Israel is occupying land beyond the so-called pre-1967 borders, meaning the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Israel refers to these territories as disputed.
However, Abbas’s Fatah party, Hamas, and other major Palestinian factions routinely refer to the entire state of Israel as “occupied” territory.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, the only binding resolution pertaining to the West Bank, calls on Israel to withdraw under a future final-status solution “from territories occupied” as a result of the 1967 Six Day War. The resolution does not call for a withdrawal from “all territories,” a designation deliberately left out to ensure Israel’s allowance under a future deal to retain some territory for security purposes.
The Jewish Virtual Library explains:
The Security Council did not say Israel must withdraw from “all the” territories occupied after the Six Day War. This was quite deliberate. The Soviet delegate wanted the inclusion of those words and said that their exclusion meant “that part of these territories can remain in Israeli hands.” The Arab states pushed for the word “all” to be included, but this was rejected. They nevertheless asserted that they would read the resolution as if it included the word “all.” The British Ambassador who drafted the approved resolution, Lord Caradon, declared after the vote: “It is only the resolution that will bind us, and we regard its wording as clear.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.