Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced his plans to participate in a tour of Hebron run by the far-right Im Tirtzu organization in early January.
In addition, on Monday, Edelstein is slated to attend a conference organized by the Knesset’s Land of Israel caucus and is expected to call for Israel to apply its sovereignty over the divided West Bank city of Hebron. The conference is intended to express “support for, solidarity with and commitment to the Jewish community of Hebron.”
“In my view, it’s delusional that some Knesset members dare to undermine the Jewish people’s right to dwell in the city of our forefathers,” Edelstein said in a press statement issued prior to the conference. “We’re developing Hebron, investing in it and inculcating its importance in future generations. We are saying clearly - sovereignty in Hebron first.”
Im Tirtzu runs an extensive series of tours in Hebron, aimed mainly at Israeli college students, new immigrants and disabled veterans. It started giving the tours about two years ago to fight what the organization calls “the delegitimization and lies” promoted in tours of the city run by left-wing groups such as Breaking the Silence.
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“The Knesset speaker’s support for these tours strengthens Israeli sovereignty over the city and encourages the entire public to come and connect to it,” Im Tirtzu Chairman Matan Peleg said.
Since an accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1997, Hebron has been divided into two parts: H1, the Palestinian Authority-controlled area comprising about 80 percent of the city and home to about 175,000 Palestinians; and H2, the Israeli-controlled area where some 500 to 800 settlers live alongside 40,000 Palestinians.
In October, Israel approved some 22 million shekels ($6.1 million) in government funding toward another project for Jewish settlement in Hebron, including the conversion of a former army base into housing for Jewish residents.