Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bibi's Hebron Conundrum

Bibi's Hebron Conundrum

Published: Thursday, March 12, 2009 11:43 PM
Will he concede the Hevron Accords were a mistake?

On September 7, 1995, Binyamin Netanyahu, then-candidate for Prime Minister, issued the following statement while visiting Hebron:
The Jewish settlement will remain in Hebron permanently. If someone tries to take it away, my friends and I will be here, and they will have to take us away as well. It will be a fatal mistake to bring hundreds of armed Palestinian policemen here, and there will be a small area where the Jews can pass and where the police and IDF can operate. If there will be a conflict, the IDF will not be able to function and will quickly collide with the Palestinian forces. This is a prescription for tragedy. There is one body responsible, and that has to be the IDF.
On May 13, 1996 he declared that "redeployment should be put off until the final settlement. Hebron is a very
Netanyahu, together with Yasser Arafat, signed the Hebron Accords.
complicated problem. It is the oldest Jewish settlement in the world, and the Jewish community there is in great danger. We all remember what happened in 1929. It is preferable that such a complex matter be carefully considered at the final status talks."
Yet, in early 1997, during a press conference dealing with the Hebron Accords, Netanyahu proclaimed that the ideological concepts he grew up believing are "not all within reach anymore," necessitating "hard decisions" and generating a "meeting ground between vision and reality. This is leadership."
On January 14, 1997, Prime Minister Netanyahu, together with Yasser Arafat, signed the Hebron Accords, which were implemented six days later. Those accords divided Hebron into two sections, leaving over 80% of the city under the security control of the Palestinian Authority. Amongst the land abandoned were the Abu-Sneneh Hills, overlooking Hebron's Jewish community to the south, and Harat al-Shech to the north. It was from these hills that Arafat's gunman terrorized Hebron for over two and a half years, shooting day and night into people's apartments, cars and as they walked in the street. Abu Sneneh became infamous following the murder of ten-month-old Shalhevet Pass eight years ago.
The Jewish Community of Hebron continues to come under attack on numerous fronts. Only a few months ago, outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the forced expulsion of families from Beit HaShalom, despite letters signed by some 50 Knesset members, both to him and to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, demanding postponement of the eviction pending the elections and examination of new evidence.
The Israeli Supreme Court continues to allow extreme left-wing organizations, such as Shovrim Shtika (Breaking the Silence) and Bnei Avraham, to incite Hebron's Arabs against the Jewish community under the guise of "guided tours". This, at tremendous cost to the state. In the words of Attorney Sherman, representing the state, such "tours" demand apportioning of large numbers of police and army forces to provide security. However, he refrained from pointing out to the court that the police themselves define these events as blatant provocations which have led to an increase in unrest and violence in Hebron.
These "tours" are conducted at the cost of Hebron residents' civil liberties. Police routinely close streets in Hebron to Jewish traffic because of the left-wing visits to the city. A Hebron resident was stopped by police and not allowed to reach his Tel Rumeida home because of the extremists visiting an Arab family in the neighborhood.
Concurrently, ninety-seven percent of Hebron is closed to Jews; and Jewish groups are prevented by the police from similar "tour" visits in cities such as Um el-Fahm.
Arab violence in Hebron is on the rise. Almost daily, rocks are hurled at Israeli automobiles driving between Hebron and Kiryat Arba, injuring drivers and passengers and causing damage to the cars. Two months ago, two Jewish girls were physically attacked by Arabs on this road. Additionally, Arab terrorists armed with knives are apprehended weekly near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. During questioning, they admit that their goal was to stab and kill Israelis. A few months ago, a woman terrorist nearly killed a high-ranking police officer near Ma'arat HaMachpela.
At the same time, Hebron and Kiryat Arba leaders have been informed by the IDF central command that Tzir Tzion, the Zion Road, beginning about a kilometer north of the entrance to Kiryat Arba and continuing into Hebron, will soon be opened to Arab vehicular traffic. The last time the roadblocks on this road were removed and Arab traffic allowed free travel on it, two Israelis were killed in the space of 12 hours: contractor David Cohen and Kiryat Arba councilman Hezzy Mualem. This is the only road connecting Hebron to Kiryat Arba, used hundreds of times a day by Jews traveling from Hebron to Kiryat Arba and from there to Jerusalem, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, Israel has witnessed a new type of terror in the past year, utilizing moving vehicles. Reopening this road is a sure recipe for continued terror aimed at Hebron-Kiryat Arba residents and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who tour the city annually.
How will incoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu react to these threats? What will be his attitude towards the Jewish Community of Hebron?
How will incoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu react to these threats?

The cabinet decision approving the Hebron Accords in 1997 included the following statement: "The Government will act to maintain all the conditions and requirements necessary for the existence, security and consolidation of the Jewish community in Hebron." Will Netanyahu keep his promise? Will he provide full security for Hebron? Will he approve permits allowing Jews to build on Jewish property? Will he issue permits allowing Jews to legally purchase property from Arabs desiring to sell?
Not too long ago, President Shimon Peres, speaking about the destruction of Gush Katif, told visiting American Jewish leaders: "I was for leaving Gaza. I feel myself as one of the persons mistaken.... Whatever will happen in the future, we shall not repeat the mistakes we made in leaving Gaza."
What could be more appropriate than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu standing on the stairs leading to Ma'arat HaMachpela, conceding that the Hebron Accords, dividing Hebron, were an error on his part, and guaranteeing never again to enact policies endangering the existence of Hebron's Jewish community? And this, while promising concrete measures fulfilling his past government's commitment to provide maximum security and strengthen the first Jewish city in the land of Israel.

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