Israel’s answer to the UNESCO vote in July listing Chevron as a Palestinian heritage site came on Monday with the announcement of 31 housing units to be built in the ancient city.
Assuming the project survives legal challenges from Palestinian and left-wing NGOs during upcoming hearings, it will mark the first Israeli construction in 15 years in Chevron.
Although the Prime Minister’s Office released no statement, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, whose Civil Administration’s& Licensing Subcommittee, a Defense Ministry body, granted the permits, praised the decision.
“I have a great personal commitment to the Jewish settlement in Chevron in particular and to the settlement in Yehudah and Shomron in general, and we are acting responsibly to increase settlement. We are doing this wisely in spite of the pressure and the objections,” Liberman said.
“Hevron is one of the pillars of our existence as a people and a nation…” he added.
The community’s international spokesman, Yishai Fleisher, said there was a “general linkage” between the permit approval and the UNESCO vote.
“The response to the narrative that suggests that we are foreigners here is not just to pull out of UNESCO, but also to strengthen Jewish presence in Chevron,” Fleisher said.
“We thank the prime minister, government ministers, Knesset members and all public figures who worked with determination and dedication together with us to promote this construction,” a statement released by the city’s Jewish community said. “We ask everyone to ensure that the construction is indeed carried out without delay.”
Peace Now had a different reaction. “If there is anything that harms Israel’s reputation in the world, it is the settlement in Chevron.”
“The plan approved today is expected to increase the number of settlers in the city by 20 percent, and it required considerable legal acrobatics that are unlikely to withstand the test of the High Court of Justice.” the NGO said.