Hebron in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Settlement Without Peace

By Belal Shobaki
Submitted to Session P4735 (Hebron in the Modern Period: Social, Political, and Economic Dynamics in Southern Palestine, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Palestine;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Although relations between Israelis and Palestinians are conflictual throughout the West Bank and Gaza, the conflict is most extreme in the city of Hebron. This is because Israeli settlers and Palestinians are in close daily contact, due to the presence of the Jewish settlement in the middle of the Palestinian city. This special situation has caused unique problems not found elsewhere in the West Bank. Previous studies on the conflict in Hebron have focused on the city’s sectarian division into two areas (H1 and H2) and its religious importance as the main reasons for the conflict. They offer statistical and factual evaluation of the clashes and problems that form the conflict and the efficacy of attempted solutions. Yet, these studies have given insufficient attention to the personalities inhabiting Hebron: the traditional conservatism of Hebron Muslims and the ideological extremism of the Israeli settlers. The political solutions in force attempt to accommodate the Zionist settlers who have migrated to Hebron since it was conquered by Israel in the June 1967 war. The Hebron Protocol of 1997, in particular, has divided the city between the two groups, while the stationing of a temporary foreign observer force monitors the behavior of the two populations. Neither measure has addressed the problem at the heart of the conflict, and both are insufficient to solve it.

In this paper, I focus on the ideological dimension of the conflict. I argue that the mindsets of Hebron’s Palestinian and Zionist inhabitants are the key to understanding and solving the conflict. I argue that the problem is not the proximal residence of Jews and Muslims in the city of Hebron. It is a political problem grounded in the extremism of the Zionist settlers. To focus on this question, I rely on a wide range of Palestinian, Israeli, and international institutions’ statistical and factual, incident-based reports on the history of Hebron’s conflict, and interviews with Palestinian Hebronites. I examine these sources to develop an underlying logic of the motivations of the conflict and reasons for the violent nature of the interaction between the two populations, while demonstrating that extremism is initiated from the Zionist side.

In conclusion, this paper suggests that the physical barriers between the populations imposed to prevent further conflict have not been effective and are not a sustainable solution but, rather, that they have exacerbated it. Further geographical division of the land will not end the conflict.