The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the West Bank city of Hebron — his first since 1998 — as “provocative” and politically motivated.
“This is a purely colonialist, racist visit that Netanyahu is doing at the height of an election battle in an attempt to win votes from the right and the extreme right,” the PA’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Palestinian activists from Youth Against Settlements raised a giant Palestinian flag in the area where Netanyahu and other government officials were gathered to mark the 90th anniversary of the Hebron massacre. The 1929 incident saw Arab rioters murder 67 of their Jewish neighbors in the ancient city.
In the city center, witnesses said Palestinian youths threw stones and firecrackers at soldiers, who responded with rubber bullets.
— المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام (@PalinfoAr) September 4, 2019
During his visit Netanyahu declared that Israelis would remain in the flashpoint West Bank city forever, but stopped short of announcing new construction in the area as Jewish locals and right-wing lawmakers have been demanding.
“Hebron will never be cleansed of Jews… We are not strangers in Hebron. We will remain here forever,” he said.
At the ceremony, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Culture Minister Miri Regev of the Likud party called for the application of Israeli sovereignty over the city and to expand Jewish presence.
Some 800 Jewish settlers and 200,000 Palestinians live in Hebron.
Netanyahu did not comment on the issue at the ceremony. On Sunday, speaking to elementary school students in the settlement of Elkana, Netanyahu had vowed to extend “Jewish sovereignty” to all settlements in the West Bank — a move tantamount to annexation.
The statements by Netanyahu and his allies were seen as an effort to shore up right-wing support some two weeks ahead of the September 17 general election.
At the ceremony Netanyahu also lauded those Palestinian residents of Hebron who “risked their lives” to save Jews during the 1929 massacre.
His visit was also criticized by Democratic Camp leader Nitzan Horowitz, who accused him of making “contemptible” use of the 1929 massacre for political ends.