Late Tuesday night, 15 Hebron Jewish families held a small
housewarming party in their newly purchased building, as Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and a small group of ministers met in
Jerusalem to decide their fate.
Right-wing politicians said they expected Netanyahu to authorize the
Jewish presence in the structure, which is located in a Palestinian
neighborhood in Hebron in an area of the city under Israeli military
The IDF told the residents on Monday that they must leave by 3 p.m.
Tuesday, or face a forced removal, because they lacked the necessary
But right-wing politicians have argued that it is the government, not
the IDF, which must decide the fate of the three-story apartment
building in the West Bank city.
“Only the government can decide this and so it will be,”
Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) told reporters after
visiting the Hebron families around 5:45 p.m. “There is no need to
evacuate this building.”
Earlier in the day, MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) told reporters in
Hebron that Netanyahu had to allow the families to stay or risk the
collapse of the government.
“It is clear to the prime minister that if his seat and his
ideological path is dear to him, he will leave these people in their
home,” Hotovely said.
Behind her, as she spoke, one of the 20 party activists who
accompanied her held up a blue Likud flag.
Hotovely was one of a number of politicians who blamed Defense
Minister Ehud Barak for the threatened eviction.
From Jerusalem, MK Danny Danon (Likud) accused Barak of using the
Hebron home to launch his reelection campaign.
Sources close to Netanyahu said that they did not expect a battle
between Barak and Likud ministers to lead to a coalition crisis
because both sides understood why it was important for him to take
the middle ground.
Netanyahu referred to the Hebron building during a press conference
he called on Tuesday to mark the third-year anniversary of the
establishment of his government, and said that he and Barak were “in
Netanyahu said he had asked for a delay in the evacuation order so
that the facts of the case could be clarified, saying that this was a
single, specific instance rather than an case of the government
trying to expand the Jewish settlement of Hebron.
Regarding his government’s overall settlement policy, Netanyahu said
that “we have not brought about its strangulation, as some elements
suggested we did, but we also did not act irresponsibly. We have
acted in a measured and responsible manner.”
Netanyahu also related to the controversial Ulpana outpost on the
outskirts of the Beit El settlement, which the state promised to
evacuate by the end of this month.
Residents of the outpost on Tuesday said they received a surprise
visit from top military officers, which they assumed was advance
preparation for the evacuation.
Netanyahu said that Ulpana is “not a simple problem.” Temporary
mobile homes are not the issue, but rather “real homes” in the heart
of a neighborhood, he said.
Ulpana is composed of eight stone apartment buildings. Each structure
houses six families. Five of the buildings are under threat of
“We are discussing this, and I hope we can find a solution for this
as well,” Netanyahu said.
But on Tuesday, politicians and the media were focused on the Hebron
structure, which can be forcibly evacuated at any moment.
Security sources said that in spite of Netanyahu’s request, the
eviction order stands.
As the 3 p.m. deadline approached, Shlomo Levinger, a spokesman for
the 15 Hebron families, came outside to speak with the media.
“We are not getting ready to leave,” he said. “We are busy getting
ready for Passover.”
Dani Dayan – who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea,
Samaria and the Gaza Strip – joined Levinger briefly.
“Why should there be an evacuation?” he said.
Levinger told the media, including The Jerusalem Post, that Jews from
Hebron purchased the structure from its Palestinian owner.
Security sources said that the sale is legitimate but they are
checking to determine if the Palestinian who sold it to the settlers
had the authority to do so.
They added that this could take weeks, if not months.
Still, Kahlon, along with other Likud ministers Yuli Edelstein and
Yisrael Katz, said they examined the documents and that the sale was
Transportation Minister Katz said that the PA’s arrest of the home-
owner was proof that the sale was authentic.
“It is shameful that the PA threatens the lives of those who sell to
Israelis,” Katz said.
In its evacuation order issued Monday, the Civil Administration of
Judea and Samaria said they were evicting the settlers because they
had not sought the necessary permits to authenticate the sale and to
reside in the structure.
Levinger said that the last documents needed to request such permits
were turned in today.
Security sources said that this process is also lengthy. The question
is whether the residents will be able to remain in the home while the
matter is being solved.
But in its evacuation order, the civil administration said permits
were not the only issues.
The settlers’ presence in the apartment building could upset the
fragile status quo in the city between Israelis and Palestinians, and
could create friction between the two groups, the administration said.
The building is located in a Palestinian neighborhood in a section of
Hebron under Israeli military control. It is situated across a small
park from the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Border Police have cordoned off the building. Only members of the 15
Jewish families and politicians have been allowed to go in and out.
Even reporters have been kept at bay.
“It is very quiet here,” noted Hotovely when she visited. “The real
provocation is that of Barak, who doesn’t have political power or a
party behind him.”
“The government should send these people flowers, not threaten to
evict them,” she added.
Palestinians came out during the day to watch events around the home,
and there were some arguments with settlers, but no violence.
At night, as the settlers finished their housewarming party, a few
Border Police officers milled about. Police jeeps patrolled the area.