By Joel Greenberg, McClatchy Newspapers –
HEBRON, West Bank — Israeli police evicted Jewish settlers Wednesday from a house in this volatile West Bank city, heading off what they feared was an attempt to expand settlement enclaves here.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to allay criticism of the move by pledging to secure authorization for three settlement outposts in the West Bank that were built without government approval. He also said he’d ask the attorney general to “find a solution” to prevent the razing of a fourth outpost built on private Palestinian land.
Israeli officials said the Hebron settlers were being evicted because they’d moved in without the required permission from the Israeli military government in the West Bank. Netanyahu suggested that his government ultimately might approve the expansion of the Hebron settlements, however.
“We are strengthening Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names, “and we are strengthening Jewish settlement in Hebron, the city of the patriarchs, but there is a principle we abide by: We do it while observing the law.”
The issue of Jewish settlers in the West Bank remains a volatile one. There are 120 officially established Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but dozens of others were set up without government approval. Netanyahu’s government, whose Cabinet includes several supporters of the settler movement, has taken few steps to dismantle the unauthorized settlements. All the settlements are deemed illegal under international law.
In Hebron, about 850 Jewish settlers live in a cluster of heavily guarded enclaves among 180,000 Palestinians in a part of the city that’s controlled by the Israeli army and where movement and access by Palestinians are heavily restricted.