Israel seized municipal power from the Palestinian Authority in Hebron on Sunday, when the Defense Ministry issued the final approval for construction of an elevator that would make the Tomb of the Patriarchs wheelchair accessible.
Under the terms of the 1997 Hebron agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, such construction would typically need the approval of the Hebron Municipality, which is run by the Palestinians.
The site of the Tomb of the Patriarchs itself, however, is under the auspices of the IDF. In light of the Hebron Municipality’s objection to the project, the only way for Israel to move forward place the project under the auspices of the Civil Administration.
Hebron’s Jewish community and right-wing politicians and activists have long lobbied to make the site wheelchair accessible. At present the Jewish sanctuaries in the tomb can only be reached by a climbing a long staircase.
This project has been delayed for years, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.
“The time has come to move forward. We have green-lighted the elevator project to end the many years of discrimination at the site. Every person, irrespective of whether or not they are disabled, should have the opportunity to visit the tomb, which is an important Jewish heritage site,” Bennett said.
“This is what it means to develop the settlements, with deeds and not words. I thank the prime minister and the foreign minister for their help in this matter.”