JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli government has approved the planning of new housing for Jews in the predominantly Arab West Bank city of Hebron.
COGAT, the Israel Defense Forces Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit, which coordinates civilian issues in the West Bank, confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that permission was granted for planning infrastructure in the area.
According to the plan, the residential area will be in the military compound of Plugat Hamitkanim, formerly the city’s central bus station. Israel requisitioned the land for military use in the 1980s, according to Peace Now.
In a letter to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and to the head of the Civil Administration, Peace Now called for a halt to the residential planning for Jewish Israelis.
“What is happening in Hebron is a clear bending of the law, according to which a land seized for military purposes cannot be used for the purpose of settlement,” the group wrote. “The Israeli government continues to find new ways to accommodate the extreme settlers in the city of Hebron, where the occupation is the most apparent and most severe.
“If the military necessity is no longer there, the land must be returned to its owners and the protected lease agreement with the Hebron municipality must be renewed.”
Jewish residents of Hebron say the land is private property that belonged to Jews before the establishment of the state in 1948, according to Haaretz.
In 1968, Jews moved to Kiryat Arba, on the outskirts of Hebron, following a failed attempt to settle in Hebron itself. Jews began living in Hebron in 1979.
Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran told The Associated Press that the planning approval is the first in more than a decade.