Arens Indicates the Government Has Ambitious Plans for Restoring the Jewish Quarter in Hebron

Defense Minister Moshe Arens indicated today that the government has ambitious plans for the restoration of the Jewish quarter in Hebron. He fold the Knesset that it would be refurbished “like the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem,” meaning the Old City, after its conquest by Israel in 1967.

Arens spoke in the Knesset in reply to seven agenda motions related to the recent violence in Hebron. His remarks with respect to the Jewish quater in Hebron were the strongest yet by a key policy-maker. The implication was that the government intends to go far beyond the 1980 plan which spoke of renovating the “Jewish courtyard” and adding a floor to the “Hadassah House,” two sites in the center of Hebron seized by Jewish squatters some years ago.

Sources at the Housing Ministry are speaking of settling 500 Jewish families in Hebron, a scheme, which if realized, would be of the same dimensions as the resettlement of Jews in East Jerusalem.

But the Cabinet, which endorsed the principle of a strong Jewish presence in the West Bank town, made reference only to implementing the plan approved in 1980. Premier Menachem Begin insisted that this has nothing to do with the murder in Hebron last Thursday of yeshiva student Aharon Gross.

CITES AN INTOLERABLE SITUATION

Arens appeared to be addressing the demands of the Gush Emunim militants of Kiryat Arba that a large section of downtown Hebron be turned over to them on grounds that the land belonged to Jews who were forced to flee during the Arab riots in 1929. He told the Knesset it was intolerable “that the sight of a Jew (in Hebron) should make the blood of local Arabs boil.” He said such a situation might exist under the Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran but not under a Jewish government.

Meanwhile, the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee was scheduled to visit Hebron today. Two of its members, Yossi Sarid of the Labor Party and Victor Shemtov of Mapan, said they would boycott the visit because it does not include meetings with local Arabs. The committee would hear only one side of the problem, they said.

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