Bibi vows Jews will never leave Hebron in latest pre-election settler pitch

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Bibi vows Jews will never leave Hebron in latest pre-election settler pitch

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is accused of pandering to Israel's extreme right in West Bank city visit

Hebron's Cave of the Patriachs is important to all three monotheistic faiths
Hebron's Cave of the Patriachs is important to all three monotheistic faiths

As Israelis prepared to go to the polls for the second time this year, Benjamin Netanyahu continued his recent habit of pandering to the settler movement, with a controversial visit to Hebron.

Before the Israeli prime minister and leader of Likud flew to London on Thursday to meet British PM Boris Johnson, Netanyahu told a press conference in the West Bank city of 200,000 Palestinians that Jews would remain there forever.

In a first-ever public address from Hebron by a sitting Israeli prime minister, and using Nazi terminology which means ‘excluding Jews,’ he said: “Hebron will not be devoid of Jews. It will not be Judenrein.”

Jewish left-wing parties said his comments risked stoking religious incitement in a city with 1,000 religious Jewish settlers and a heavy Israeli military presence. The Palestinian Authority likened his intervention to Ariel Sharon’s ill-fated Temple Mount visit in 2000, which triggered the Intifada.

Netanyahu’s comments were made in front of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, to mark 90 years since the 1929 Hebron Massacre, in which 67 Jews were killed, and came amid fervent calls by right-wing Israeli parties to bulldoze Hebron’s old market and replace it with homes for Jewish families.

“Hebron will not be cleansed of Jews,” Netanyahu said, ahead of Israel’s election on 17 September. “We are not strangers in Hebron. We will remain in it forever.”

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the comments were “a grave escalation” that “aims to drag the region into a religious war,” adding: “We warn against the grave consequences of this.”

In the run-up to recent Israeli elections, Netanyahu has made a series of incendiary statements and promises which analysts say panders to right-wing religious-nationalist supporters, in an effort to galvanise Likud’s traditional base.

Just days before Israel’s last election in April of this year, he promised to annex all illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a promise he reiterated on Sunday.

“With God’s help we will extend Jewish sovereignty to all the settlements as part of the (biblical) land of Israel, as part of the State of Israel,” he said during a visit to the settlement of Elkana. “This is our land. We will build another Elkana and another Elkana and another.”

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