The Palestinian Authority and local Chevron officials are up in arms over Israel’s decision to grant the Jewish community of Chevron local authority, divorcing the area controlled by Israel in Chevron from the rest of the municipality. “This is the most dangerous decision they have made since 1967,” said the PA-appointed governor of Chevron, Kamal Hamid.
“This step prepares Israel to impose its sovereignty on us, and destroys any diplomatic solution in this area,” he told a local radio station. “They have been planning this for years. The 40,000 Arab residents of the area of Chevron they are doing this in will end up paying the price, as will the 250,000 other Palestinians who live in Chevron. We demand that the international community prevent this from happening.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman last week signed the order that turned the area where the Jewish community lives — the area around Me’aras Hamachpelah and Tel Rumeida — into its own entity. By the community becoming its own local authority instead of remaining tied to the Palestinian Authority-controlled Chevron municipality, the new entity can now negotiate contracts for municipal services, purchase land and make zoning decisions, and conduct tenders. The local authority will also be in charge of policies on education, health, environmental issues and other civil matters that affect residents.
Fatah also condemned the move. Fatah spokesperson Osama al-Kawasmi demanded that the international community “act with all legal, diplomatic and communal means to prevent this violation of international law and violation of written agreements.” PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the move “is another step in the attempt of the creation of ‘Greater Israel’ and the annexation of Palestinian lands. This is a clear violation of international law.”
Commenting on the move, Liberman said last week that the government “continues to act on behalf of settlement in Yehudah and Shomron. This past year has been the best in many years for settlement. I believe there is a great value to enhancing the Jewish community of Chevron. For years the needs of residents there have gotten lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. This decision was necessary, and I am determined to advance settlement in order to enhance it, with responsible actions.”