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Hebron governor deplores Israeli army order expanding settlers’ municipal powers

Sept. 2, 2017 8:48 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 3, 2017 5:05 P.M.)
Israeli settlers tour Hebron's Old City under Israeli army protection as Palestinian movement is severely affected. June 25, 2016 (Photo: Christian Peacemakers Teams)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Governor of the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron Kamel Hamid condemned a recent Israeli army decision to expand municipal powers in Hebron to Israeli settlers that live illegally in the city, reportedly describing the move as “the most dangerous since 1967.”

Hamid told Palestinian Authority-owned radio station Voice of Palestine that the decision would serve to further strengthen Israeli control in Hebron while undermining the PA, in a city where Palestinians already contend with the highest concentration of military checkpoints in the West Bank and are surrounded by hundreds of notoriously aggressive settlers living under the protection of the Israeli army.

“The order jeopardizes any political settlement in the area, which stands in contradiction with the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Hamid said, according to a translation of the interview by the PA’s Wafa news agency.

Hamid warned that decision will lead to “a state of confusion and chaos and will threaten order and stability in the area,” according to the report, which added that the governor called for “urgent political, diplomatic and legal action.”

Mistreatment of Palestinians in the Hebron area has been common since the city was divided in the 1990s after a US-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinians inside the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The majority of the city was placed under the jurisdiction of the PA, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control in a sector known as H2. While H2 is under Israeli military control, civil issues, such as infrastructure, construction, traffic arrangements, in the settlers section has remained controlled by the PA.

According to Peace Now, an Israeli NGO focusing on settlement expansion, the Israeli army announced Thursday that the military order was signed to establish a municipal services administration for the Hebron's Israeli settlers, following administrative work by the Israeli Military Advocate General, Civil Administration, Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of the Interior.

"By granting an official status to the Hebron settlers, the Israeli government is formalizing the apartheid system in the city. This step, which happened immediately following the announcement on the evacuation of the settlers who took over a house in Hebron, is another illustration of the policy of compensating the most extreme settlers for their illegal actions," the human rights organization wrote.

According to Peace Now, the Israeli order “does not create a new local authority or a new community within a regional authority, but rather a settler body with a certain degree of administrative power,” which would not include any Palestinian representation.

More than 30,000 Palestinians reside in Hebron’s Old City, side by side with some 800 Israeli settlers.

Peace Now noted they were attempting to obtain a copy of the military order to further understand its implications, but said that a possible consequence of the decision would be the “formalization” of the “apartheid” system in Hebron.

“Although the settlers already treat specific areas in the city as their own, this split in local governance formalizes the apartheid system in Hebron, with the approval of Minister of Defense Lieberman.”

Meanwhile, if the order proves to grant authority over infrastructure in the area to the new administration, that would “constitute a violation of the Hebron Protocol from 1997, according to which the responsibility and authority over infrastructure are in the hands of the Palestinians,” Peace Now said.

The group added that, “We can assume that the establishment of the ‘municipal services administration’ will lead to the handling of budgets directly by the settlers, rather than by the Civil Administration, something which is also likely to result in less transparency in fund allocation.”
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