Israeli troops begin Hebron pull-out

Israeli troops began pulling out of Hebron last night after the Israeli parliament voted overwhelmingly to endorse the agreement under which most of the city will come under Palestinian control.

Jeeps filled with Palestinian police were waiting in heavy rain outside the Israeli military headquarters to take over as soon as the last Israeli soldiers left.

Israeli soldiers had earlier taken down the blue and white Star of David flag from the roof of the headquarters, an old British fortress, from which they had ruled Hebron since capturing it in 1967. Soon after the Knesset had voted by 87 to 17 to endorse the Hebron protocol, signed by Israel and the Palestinians on Wednesday, the first of 400 Palestinian police started moving into the city.

For the Israeli right it is a day of mourning. With the approval of the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba, the Jewish settlement which overlooks Hebron, the settlers in the centre of the city will ceremonially rend their clothes - usually only small slits are made - to mark their grief at the partial Israeli withdrawal.

In Jerusalem the cabinet approved the protocol on Hebron by a margin of 11 to 7 after a rancorous 12-hour debate in which Benjamin Begin, son of Menachim Begin, the former Prime Minister, resigned in protest, accusing Benjamin Netanyahu, the present Prime Minister, of ceding "the Jewish homeland". A demonstrator held up a placard reading: "You promised. We believed. You betrayed."

But about 67 per cent of Israelis said they were satisfied with the Hebron agreement signed on Wednesday, according to the daily Yediot Aharanot. Only 25 per cent were dissatisfied.

There is jubilation among the previous Labour government's supporters, defeated by Mr Netanyahu in last May's election, who see their policies justified. Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister, said: "I truly congratulate the government on the signing of the protocol based on the Oslo agreement." Uri Savir, the former leader of Israel's negotiating team, said: "On most issues there are improvements - for the Palestinians."

This optimism may be misplaced. Mr Netanyahu has gone along with continuing to implement the Oslo accords largely because of pressure from Egypt and Jordan, the Europeans and, above all, the US. If the partial withdrawal from Hebron allows him to break out of diplomatic isolation he may repair his relations with the settlers by expanding settlements.

The US has played a much greater role in the recent talks than during negotiations on Oslo under Labour. Meiron Benvenisti, an expert on the West Bank, says: "The agreement is not an Israeli- Palestinian agreement, rather an Israeli-American and a Palestinian-American agreement."

The Prime Minister says his greatest achievement was to get an agreement that Israel will determine the extent of its withdrawal in the third phase of the pull-out from the West Bank.

But the Hebron protocol suffers from the same failing as the rest of the Oslo accord. Authority is handed to Palestinians, but settlers stay in place, ensuring endless friction between two groups of people who detest each other.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory