By: Ramona Wadi
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Hebron a few days ago follows the plans to increase the settler presence in the city. Prior to the upcoming Israeli elections, Netanyahu continues to seek validation from the right-wing by pledging Israel’s permanence and expansion over Palestinian territory.
“We are not coming to dispossess anyone, but nor will anyone dispossess us,” Netanyahu insisted in a speech during the incursion into Hebron. His statement was the prelude to demands from Likud Culture Minister Miri Regev and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein that Israeli sovereignty extends to Hebron.
Bolstered by US endorsement, Netanyahu has increased his annexation and “Jewish sovereignty” rhetoric – the latter subject of a speech given to elementary students from the Elkana settlement. “There will be no more displacements, and with the help of God we will apply Jewish sovereignty to all communities.” The reference, it was made clear, was relevant only to Jewish settler communities in the occupied West Bank.
On both these occasions, Netanyahu has clearly opted for Palestinian dispossession. Increasing settler-colonial communities necessitates the ongoing expulsion of the Palestinian population. Hebron is a case in point where daily Israeli state and settler violence is normalized as inherent to the city’s political dynamics. B’Tselem has documented extensive human rights violations against Palestinians in Hebron; the organisation asserts, “Over the years, systematic abuse and harassment of Palestinians by settlers has become an established part of life in Hebron.”
The shooting of 29 people at the Ibrahimi Mosque by American-Israeli extremist settler Baruch Goldstein in 1994 was highlighted by Palestinians during Netanyahu’s visit, as the latter chose a location close to the massacre site to proclaim his plans for the city.
There is no dispute regarding the details of oppression which Palestinians face daily in Hebron. The danger is reporting such oppression in isolation, without recognition of the fact that forced displacement of Palestinians is becoming Netanyahu’s preferred form of violence.
Likewise, Netanyahu’s comments in Hebron must be contextualized as part of the wider political campaign. Informing of Israel’s colonial plans for Hebron, described by PA Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh as “part of the occupation’s plans to Judaize the old town of Hebron, including the Ibrahimi Mosque,” is just a fragment of Netanyahu’s agenda which continues to target Jerusalem, for example, not to mention other locations targeted for settlement expansion.
Instead of opting for visible violence, Netanyahu has chosen to reinforce the existing violations. The international community has declared Israeli settlements illegal countless times, yet it is so far silent as regarding Jewish sovereignty.
The Palestinian Authority’s pleas, belated as usual, have failed to garner attention. Meanwhile, bolstered by US President Donald Trump and the international community’s preoccupation with saving their two-state diplomacy, Netanyahu stands to benefit by focusing on the normalization of Palestinian forced displacement. There is a twist to the usual rhetoric, however. By choosing Hebron to make his statement, Netanyahu is exploiting the topic of forced displacement to ensure his voters – not just those in Hebron – that he will safeguard the permanent presence, as well as impunity, of the settler population that bolsters Israel’s presence and crimes against humanity.