Netanyahu postpones eviction of settlers from Hebron house (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By STUART WINER 04/03/12)
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday evening that the
planned evacuation of a group of Jewish settlers who occupied a house
in Hebron had been put on hold.
Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday that he
asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to postpone the eviction while the
case was being investigated. He did not say how long that would take.
He said he and Barak were “coordinated” on their handling of the
The prime minister also said it was government policy to expand
Jewish settlement in the Israeli-controlled section of the divided
West Bank city.
At 3 p.m. Tuesday, a deadline set by the Israeli military authorities
for the settlers residing in Hebron’s Beit Hamachpela to file
purchase permits with the Defense Ministry had passed, but ministry
officials said they would decide when to conduct the forced eviction
according to “operational considerations.”
When the deadline was reached, settler spokespeople said all the
necessary documentation confirming their legal right to the building
had been handed over. And military sources said the documentation was
insufficient, since it did not include the defense minister’s
authorization for them to move into the property.
In an explicit gesture of backing, Transportation Minister Yisrael
Katz visited the house on Tuesday morning to help attach a mezuza to
the doorpost, a traditional ceremony that marks the beginning of
residence in a new home.
Dozens of Israelis entered the empty three-story house, located next
to the Cave of the Patriarchs, last Wednesday in an attempt to cement
claims of ownership on the property. The settlers claimed they
purchased it legally from a Palestinian owner
“Jews have the right to buy property anywhere in the world and in
Hebron in particular,” Katz told reporters.
“Anyone who wants to come here and undermine the legality of the
purchase will have to deal with this fact: The purchase is legal and
doesn’t infringe on the rights of anyone,” Katz said. “The government
should be supporting the settlers in the continued Jewish settlement
The purchase and occupation of the house has been the focus of
controversy since settlers moved into the building last week. Whereas
the setters claim they bought the premises legally, the mayor of
Hebron, Khaled Osaily, said he knew for sure that their documents
“The person who sold them the house is not the owner,” Osaily told
Army Radio. “All the documents are fakes, and this is not the first
time they [the settlers] have faked things.”
Osaily said that the settlers’ occupation of the building will not
improve relationships between Jews and Arabs.
“Does buying another house bring peace?” he said. “It only causes
more problems. Without political hope we are like a pressure cooker
that is ready to burst.”
David Wilder, spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community, defended the
occupation of the house and dismissed a legal requirement to first
obtain permission from the Defense Ministry before inhabiting
properties in the West Bank.
“The law is a disgrace. Why should a Jew need permission [to take
over a property]?” Wilder told Army Radio.”We expect the State of
Israel and the prime minister to approve occupying the house.”
Settlers said they would resist if the military tried to force them
“At this point, we’re expecting the use of force,” one of the
settlers told Channel 10 News.
A senior Defense Ministry official said earlyTuesday that the army
had given the families in Beit Hamachpela until 3 p.m. to present
their purchase documents to the military authorities. Barring that,
they would be evicted “subject to operational considerations.” The
official expressed doubt that the eviction would take place Tuesday.
Several Likud ministers immediately criticized the order, saying it
was premature as it preempted a ministerial discussion of the matter.
On Monday night, Netanyahu asked Barak to allow the settlers to
exhaust all legal avenues before the military carried out the
Contention over the house has spread to the political arena, with
right-wing ministers and MKs attacking Barak for acting independently
of government policy in supporting the evacuation.
Coalition chairman Zeev Elkin (Likud) accused Barak of conducting
a “putsch” and accusing him of threatening evacuation in order to
garner votes from the left.
Israel Radio reported that Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-on
criticized the prime minister for giving in to extreme right-wing
ministers and said that the settlers only managed to obtain the empty
building because local Palestinians have been driven from the area.
“Hebron is a ghost town for Jews only and we have no interest in
holding on to it,” Galon said.
Netanyahu is scheduled to hold a meeting with Barak and other senior
ministers to discuss the Hebron house on Tuesday evening.
The building in Hebron is the latest in a series of buildings that
Israeli residents in the area have attempted to claim. Settlers have
been attempting to purchase property in Hebron for several years;
many of the purchases have been contested in court.
In 2008, the IDF evacuated settlers who had moved into the Beit
Hameriva, or House of Contention, located between Hebron and Kiryat
Arba. In that case, the High Court ruled the settlers did not have a
solid claim to the four-story building. AP contributed to this
report. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 04/03/12)
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