Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has instructed the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank to inform the Hebron municipality that a new Jewish neighborhood is planned for the area of the Hebron fruit and vegetable market, which has stood empty for 25 years.
According to the plan, the market's existing buildings, which belong to Hebron's municipality, will be demolished to make way for new shops and residential buildings.
According to Bennett, the neighborhood "will create a territorial continuation from the Cave of the Patriarchs to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, and double the number of Jewish residents in the city."
Bennett's statement does not clarify if the Palestinian merchants will be able to come back and work in the market, but it stated that their "rights to the ground floors will remain as they currently are."
Houses in the area of Hebron’s abandoned market, 2007.Eyal Warshavsky
Spokespeople for the Jewish settlement in Hebron said they had been waiting for this project for a long time and welcome it.
The land that the fruit and vegetable market stands on was owned by Jews before Israel was founded. During Jordanian rule, until 1967, the land was not sold; the Hebron municipality leased it from Jordan and the tenants had protected status. After the Six-Day War in 1967, the buildings were designated abandoned property and taken over by the Justice Ministry’s administrator general. In 1994, following the massacre in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, where 29 Palestinians were murdered by the Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein, the market’s residents were moved out.
In November of last year, then-Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that he was moving ahead with the plan after the legal adviser to the defense establishment, Itay Ofir, submitted an opinion supporting it.