Under the protocols of the Oslo Accords, Hebron was partitioned into two zones. The first, known as H1, encompassing 80% of the city, is home to 170,000 Palestinians and is internally controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Jews are of- ficially prohibited from entering. The second, H2, which is under Israeli control, occupies the remaining 20 % of the area. It encloses the holy sites in the center and stretches out to the eastern edge of the city. About 600 - 700 Jews live in H2, in small, fortified, urban enclaves. The H2 area was also home to 20-25,000 Palestinians when the Hebron agreement was signed in 1997, although today only a few hundred remain.
In Hebron the Jewish settlers – who make up less than one per cent of the total population – exert a disproportionate influence, enabled by a massive Israeli military presence, and represent a different type of demographic dynamics than that which exists elsewhere in the West Bank or in mixed Arab-Jewish cities within Israel proper.
According to the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron, signed by the state of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 19975, a Buffer zone will be formed between H1 and H2 in order to prevent future clashes between the two sides. Nowadays, the geography of the buffer zone has shifted significantly from the original agreement, to cover nearly the entire H2 area. This followed a process of increasing military and settler control over the Palestinians, initiated in the city soon after the signing of the agreement. During the second Palestinian intifada (2000-2004), the restrictions and control imposed by Israel, as well as the violence towards the city's Palestinians became unbearable, causing the vast majority to flee to the Palestinian H1 area of the city.
Yiftachel (2000, 2006, 2009) describes a process of “creeping apartheid”, whereby different population groups are granted unequal “packages” of rights based on ethnic and geographic distinctions. He describes how this process has exacerbated since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and particularly since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. Israel has created a new geopolitical reality by massive expansion of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, demarcating and enclosing Palestinian enclaves, imposing severe restrictions on the Palestinians' freedom of movement, demolishing thousands of houses and erecting the Separation Wall. This process has produced a hierarchy of separate and unequal citizenships layered by Israeli laws, policies and practices on the ground. Yiftachel terms this process “creeping apartheid” because it develops and establishes itself largely without any formal statements or definite policies. Thus, while the Jewish settlers of Hebron and its Palestinian inhabitants are often separated by only a few meters across the buffer zones, and sometimes no more than a single wall, a huge gap yawns between them in all areas of life – infrastructures, services, accessibility, citizenship and equality before the law – a result of their assignment to completely different legal systems; that of the colonizer and that of the colonized.
Most areas under direct Israeli control in the West Bank are rural. Hebron is the exception to this rule since it is the only Palestinian city (outside Al-Quds/East Jerusalem) inhabited by Jewish settlers. This relates to the special place of Hebron in ancient and recent Jewish history, and particularly the bloody anti-Jewish riots in 1929, in which 67 Jews were murdered and the entire community, counting few hundreds, was evicted from this holy city. This recent history has caused all
Israeli governments since 1968–from Left and Right alike–to protect the small urban settler community, situated in the heart of the largest and the highly nationalist Palestinian city.Article courtesy of I. Amit and Prof. O. Yiftachel