(Page 4 of 4)
“The Jewish people are not bad people,” said a Palestinian merchant, who did not want to give his name. “But the settlers are,” he said, rolling his eyes in exasperation.
Bleicher said Israel’s shift to the right will embolden Netanyahu in the face of international pressure.
“He is not a sole ruler, ultimately it is up to which way the wind is blowing among the people and once the people and the Knesset emanate power, Benjamin Netanyahu will tune himself to that and find the strength,” Bleicher said.
Settlers in Hebron felt betrayed by Netanyahu in his first term in office, when his government handed over 80 percent of the city to Palestinian rule in 1997.
In 2009 he kicked off his second term by announcing he embraced a two-state solution and by freezing all settlement construction for 10 months. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 when the freeze ended.
Though Netanyahu has since come under strong international condemnation for his government’s subsequent expansion of settlements, people here still hold a grudge against him.
“Bibi made all the possible mistakes in regard to Hebron,” Cohen said, using Netanyahu’s childhood nickname. “I suppose he says everything he does because he is not strong enough.”
David Wilder, a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron, said he was concerned Netanyahu could opt against a right-wing coalition.
“It is very difficult to know where Netanyahu will go. We hope and expect, because there are many people in the Likud who are very strongly right-wing, that he will form a right-wing coalition, but I won’t believe it until I see it,” Wilder said.
“We have to offer peace for peace, there is no reason to offer land for peace,” he added. “We can live with anybody under the condition that they don’t try to kill us and they are willing to live peacefully within the framework of the state of Israel.”