As time passes by, what is less remembered are the events that transpired on that same day in Hebron. In this city as well – which until then was known as one of the calmest cities in the West Bank – sporadic protests were held by local residents in protest of land expropriation in order to build Kiryat Arba.
Several settlers, residents of Kiryat Arba, decided to take the law into their own hands and arrested four youngsters from Hebron who they claimed hurled stones at them. They put them in a car, took them to Kiryat Arba and locked them in a basement of a building under construction.
The youngsters later told me that the settlers had brought in a Great Dane used by border police. The dog attacked the boys and bit two of them. One of the settlers who partook in this abduction confirmed the key facts in the Arab boys' story. It was one of the first times that Israel was shocked by illegal acts carried out by settlers from Hebron.
Law enforcers in Hebron, who were asked to respond, said that "a complaint was never filed." And indeed, the Arab boys, who were terrified by the settlers' force and the memory of the dogs' sharp fangs, were scared to file a complaint (had they filed a complaint, it is doubtful whether it would have been handled, just like thousands of other complaints filed against settlers that have piled up since then at the Hebron police station.)
Peretz scared of settlers
Since Land Day in 1976, relations between the Arab and Jewish communities in Hebron have worsened, but one similarity has remained: The government – all governments – fear the settlers and allow them to run wild.
This was the case when settlers overtook Beit Hadassah; it was the case during the settler takeover of homes and shops at the center of Hebron; and it was the case when settlers harassed Arab residents in their homes at Tel Romeida (and recently the omnipotent images of settler Efrat Alkobi repeatedly cursing her Arab neighbor enclosed in her barred home.)
This is also what is currently going on at the "Disputed House," located on a main route between Kiryat Arba and Hebron. According to the settlers, it was purchased legally, although the owner denies having sold the building. The settlers call the building, perhaps cynically "The House of Peace."
In line with prevailing laws in the Territories, only the defense minister has the right to approve the purchase - while he has not yet approved it, he hasn't taken any measures against the settlers, who broke into the building in a military-style operation.
Amir Peretz is scared to upset the settlers, as did his predecessors from Moshe Dayan to Shaul Mofaz.
The settlers in Hebron have always felt that the army is superfluous, and the only reason for it being stationed there is to cater to their every whim. The soldiers and their commanders take their orders from above: If the defense minister fears them, why should they take a risk?
In a few months or years they will end their military service anyway. So meanwhile, they are adopting a policy of procrastination – security forces are announcing that the settlers will not be removed until examination of the ownership documents. There's time in Hebron; the wheels of justice turn very slowly, if at all.