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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kadima MK backs settler takeover of building in Hebron

The most interesting part of this affair may be that Schneller claims that Kadima intends to keep Hebron. Schneller has made statements about party policy in the past that were later denied by the party. He was active in the Yesha council in the past.

Last update - 14:50 20/03/2007   

MK in Hebron declares Kadima backs settlers
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, a close associate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his liaison to the settlement movement, Tuesday visited a Hebron house occupied this week by settlers, saying that the takeover of the house was consistent with Kadima's policy, and that the party viewed a Hebron settlement bloc as part of a future peace agreement.
Scnheller was speaking a day after dozens of settlers moved into an unoccupied Palestinian building in Hebron, saying it was legally purchased from its Palestinian owner for $700,000. The building is located near the "worshiper's way," a road linking the settlement of Kiryat Arba to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Muslims and Jews in the biblical city.
The structure is currently under construction, and has yet to be connected to water or electricity. The settlers say they will have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars more in order to complete the construction. Settlers brought a generator to the site in order to prepare for a long-term stay.
Schneller said that he is proceeding on the assumption that the sale was legal, and if that is the case, it was in line with Kadima's program of settlement in blocs, as it created a continuous strip between Kiryat Arba settlement and the adjacent Jewish community of Hebron.
"This is a continuity of unparalleled importance," Schneller said. "This is extraordinary. The work of saints is done by others. By rights, the government of Israel should have done this, but since it was done, and assuming that it is legal, this is definitely in line with Kadima's approach from the demographic standpoint, an approach which views Kiryat Arba - Hebron as a Jewish settlement bloc, under any future agreement."
"In my understanding, this is part of Kadima's world view."
Peres: Settlers create 'unbearable' situation
Vice Premier Minister Shimon Peres, also of Kadima, said on Tuesday that the presence of settlers inside the West Bank city of Hebron has created an "unbearable situation" for Israel and the Palestinians.
Peres said Kiryat Arba, on the outskirts of Hebron, had been built so that a Jewish community would be living alongside, rather than within, a Palestinian community. "It is very hard to have both at the same time," he said.
Asked directly if he thought Israel should retain Kiryat Arba but move settlers out of Hebron itself, Peres said he did not want to stir up the subject now, but added:
"The current situation is unbearable and it is absolutely clear to me that we must find a solution, and a quick one, and at this stage to uphold the law."
Settlers: We can prove ownership
According to Hebron's Jewish committee, the settlers have documents proving ownership. "Everything is copied, taped, documented - the entire purchasing process," a committee member told Haaretz. "No one can contradict our ownership claims."
Noam Arnon, a spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, told Haaretz: "The purchasing process was complex and carried out through a Jordanian office. This is a house that has been under construction for several years. No one lives in it yet, so no one was evacuated from it."
A Palestinian claiming to the be the owner of the building, Mohammed Al-Baradei (Abu Samir), told Haaretz however that all of the ownership documents are in his possession. "I handed all of the documents over to police after making copies," he said. "Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar."
Al-Baradei says that some 100 settlers arrived at the site Monday evening.
Police and the Israel Defense Forces are investigating the matter.
The settlers intend to use the building as a memorial to the 12 IDF troops killed in the area during fighting with Islamic Jihad militants in November 2002. Dozens of settlers also intend to live there.
"The place could house many Jewish families in the future," said Arnon. "It is located on the main road between Kiryat Arba and Hebron, in an area that the IDF controls and secures on a permanent basis, in an area that was determined in agreements to be Jewish."
"Currently mostly young people are in the house, but in the future, after we renovate it, families will live there, like in other areas of Jewish settlement in Hebron," Arnon added. "This is not a provocation, this is a completely straightforward purchase."
"Jews lived in Hebron in the past, Jews live [in Hebron] today, and Jews will live [in Hebron] in the future as well - despite the left-wing and Arabs' attempts to drive us out," he said.

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