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Such a plan is advocated by Naftali Bennett, head of Bayit Yehudi and a natural ally of Netanyahu. He calls for the eventual annexation of more than half of the West Bank and says a Palestinian state would be “suicide” for Israel.
Since winning his party’s leadership in November, Bennett has shot to campaign stardom. The high-tech millionaire has revamped Bayit Yehudi with fresh, new faces calling for peace and unity within Israel’s ethnically-fraught society.
But Israeli critics of Bennett says his party list includes some very hawkish candidates. Bennett cites security concerns for annexation of the West Bank. Others in his party look to the Jewish scriptures.
“This land was given to us by God,” Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, number four on the Bayit Yehudi roster, said at the settler conference in Jerusalem. “We have no right to forgo one grain of this land.”
Many Hebron settlers see themselves as pioneers, carrying the torch for Jews who inhabited the city on and off for centuries, at times banished by conquerors. The community was driven out by the killing of 67 Jews by Arabs in 1929.
In more recent times, Hebron has been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence, notably the killing by a Jewish settler of 29 Muslims praying in a site holy to both religions in 1994. Its entrance has since been divided.
Through narrow alleyways manned by Israeli soldiers, buses unload tourists at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, burial site of Jewish forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives.
For Muslims, who built the Ibrahimi mosque there, the three are seen as prophets in their religious tradition.
Although Hebron has largely been quiet for years, settlers and Palestinians make no secret of their mutual enmity.