The Israeli government approved on Sunday some 22 million shekels ($6.1 million) in government funding to expand the Jewish settlement inside the predominantly Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron.
The new construction, which will be carried out at the site of a former Israeli army base, had already been approved by the Civil Administration for the West Bank. The cabinet's resolution now enables the work to proceed on the new Jewish neighborhood, which is slated to include 31 housing units as well as kindergartens and public areas.
The project is in keeping with a policy to "develop the Jewish community in the city" on land owned by individual Jews, the cabinet resolution stated. A portion of the base was built on land that had been owned by Jews.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the cabinet's approval of the funds, saying, "A new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron, for the first time in 20 years!" Lieberman tweeted. "I thank the prime minister and the cabinet ministers who approved the Hezekiah Quarter plan, which I have formulated."
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Following the War of Independence and the capture of the West Bank by Jordan, the land was leased to the Hebron municipality, which built a central bus station there. It remained in operation after Israeli forces captured the area in the 1967 Six-Day War. The land was requisitioned by the army in 1987.
The new settlement project, which will reduce the military zone in the area, will be funded by a number of government ministries, including 2.8 million shekels from the Defense Ministry. Other ministries providing funding include the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the ministries of social equality, justice and education. Some of the funds will come from this year's budget, with the rest coming from the 2018 budget.
The new construction in Hebron is the first substantial Jewish settlement construction there in a decade. Haaretz initially reported on the plans in 2016. Now that the cabinet has approved funding for it, the project can move ahead. Another Jewish settlement, Kiryat Arba, is located just east of the city.
"Twenty-two million shekels to expand the occupation. Straight from government ministries near your home," Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List faction in the Knesset, remarked in a sarcastic tweet. "The divisive and inciting right-wing government is continuing to inflame the region and then shouts that there is no partner," a reference to a Palestinian partner for peace negotiations. "For the benefit of a handful of extremist settlers, the government is trampling its citizens."
Another member of the largely Arab Joint List Knesset faction, Neven Abu Rahmoun, said the evacuation of a military camp should be carried out to end the military occupation rather than to strengthen the settlement enterprise in Hebron. "The Palestinian residents of Hebron suffer on a daily basis from limitations on freedom of movement, settler violence, violence from the security forces and the takeover of land. An end has to be put to this harm!"