Twenty settlers moved into a controversial house in Hebron on March 19. This Tuesday, Haaretz reported, Benjamin Netanyahu met with Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya’alon and Benny Begin. Later that day, Barak ordered the evacuation of the settlers. They were evacuated on Wednesday.
But, in a move that feels suspiciously like a consolation prize to the less-than-legal Hebron families, the Israeli Ministry of Housing has published the tenders for the construction of more than 800 new units in Har Homa and Givat Ze’ev, provocative legal (by Israel's definition) settlements that float on the fringe of East Jerusalem.
Har Homa is one of the most contentious because it was built in the 90s, much later than most other settlements, and is closer to being a suburb of Bethlehem than to Jerusalem of old. The government also plans to retroactively legalize three other West Bank “outposts.” Though the government claims these plans were in place earlier, the timing for this new release is certainly impeccable.
It is not by chance that these settlers chose this time of year to move to Hebron. Just before Passover in 1968, a charismatic figure in the Greater Israel movement, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, came rented a room in Hebron's Al-Naher Al-Khaled Hotel, where his seder was lead by the recent Israel prize awardee Rabbi Haim Druckman. After the seder, Levinger never left Hebron. He squatted in his hotel until he had gained enough support among higher-ups like Levi Eshkol and Yigal Allon to establish the legal (again, by Israel’s definition) settlement of Kiryat Arba on the foothills of Hebron. Forty-four years later, Moshe’s son, Shlomo Levinger, led this Passover's move to try again.
Kiryat Arba is now home to more than 7,000 Israelis. Har Homa, in 2011, had 13,000 residents. With 632 new units, who knows what 2012 will bring?