In a surprise move, the Border Police moved quickly Wednesday afternoon to
remove settlers from a three-story Hebron apartment building called Beit
Very few of the residents were in the structure at the time,
and the event was over in less than an hour.
The Hebron Jewish community
posted a video on YouTube of a small girl crying after the evacuation and a boy
nearby holding his teddy bear.
After an intense day of political lobbying
on Tuesday, settlers woke up believing they had been given a reprieve by Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to remain in the building until the end of the
According to sources in the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu
convened a meeting late Tuesday evening to discuss the disputed home in
In addition to Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Strategic
Affairs Minister MosheYa’alon, and Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin attended.
decisions were made, and it was agreed to discuss the matter further in the
Already on Monday the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria
had issued an order giving the building’s residents until 3 p.m. to voluntarily
leave or face eviction. Settlers ignored the order and appealed to Netanyahu to
intervene on their behalf and order Barak to allow them to
Ministers who visited the structure on Tuesday said that
decisions regarding the settlers continued presence in the building fell under
the auspices of the government, and not Barak.
Fifteen Jewish families
moved into the vacant structure in the pre-dawn hours last Thursday, after
purchasing it from its Palestinian owner. Security sources investigating the
sale have said that it is still not clear if the Palestinian in question had the
authority to sell the house.
The families did not request the necessary
permits from the civil administration to move into the structure and submitted
all the paperwork for that authorization only on Tuesday. Earlier, they told The
that they moved into the structure without the proper papers
because they feared Palestinians would take over the building if it remained
But the civil administration feared that the settlers’ presence
in the building, located in a Palestinian neighborhood in a section of the city
under Israeli military control, would create unnecessary friction between the
Initially Netanyahu had asked Barak to allow them to remain
in the building while the civil administration reviewed their permit request and
investigated the legality of the sale.
On Wednesday, however, Attorney-
General Yehuda Weinstein informed the prime minister and the defense minister
that in his opinion the Hebron house must be evacuated without delay, a Justice
Ministry spokesman said.
Weinstein insisted that there was no need for a
government decision to be made regarding the eviction, and that the eviction
must be enforced immediately, because of the importance of maintaining the rule
of law, the spokesman added.
Prior to a special cabinet meeting called to
discuss the gas price issue, Barak told Netanyahu that for operational reasons,
the home had to be evacuated on Wednesday.
The reasons were simple: There
were only three adults and eight children in the home, and it would be easier to
pull them out.
Netanyahu then gave his approval for the evacuation, but
with two caveats: That the IDF guard the house once the settlers were evicted to
prevent the Palestinians from moving in, and that if the settlers claims to the
house are upheld in court, they will be allowed to move back
Netanyahu then went to the cabinet meeting, and there – in a move
interpreted by many observers as an attempt to compensate for the evacuation
order – said he asked Weinstein to find a solution to the controversial Ulpana
neighborhood in Beit El, in order to prevent the demolition of five buildings
The Ulpana neighborhood was built from 2000 to 2008 on land
purchased from Palestinians in 2000, but the paperwork was later judged to be
inauthentic and 30 apartments there were scheduled for demolition in
Netanyahu also said that in the near future he will bring
recommendations, approved by Barak, that will legalize three outposts: Bruchim,
Sansana and Rehalim.
In the evening, summing up the day, Netanyahu said:
“We are strengthening Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and we are
strengthening the Jewish community in Hebron, the City of the
“But there is one principle that we uphold. We do everything
according to the law and we will continue to do so,” he said.
afterwards: “I will continue to act in order to maintain the rule of law and
democracy while guaranteeing the authority of the state over its
He added, “Any request to acquire the relevant buying permit
or any other transactions will be dealt with professionally and impartially, as
is the practice. However, we cannot allow a situation where unlawful actions are
taken to determine or dictate ad-hoc facts to the authorities.”
United States said that it backed the evacuation.
“We support the
government of Israel’s decision,” a State Department official
Settlers and right-wing politicians quickly condemned the move.
Activist Itamar Ben-Gvir warned that it could lead to “price-tag” attacks of
retribution against Palestinians.Hilary Leila Krieger and Yaakov Katz
contributed to this report.