Jewish families can return to a four-story Hebron apartment building — known as Beit Hashalom — that the IDF forcibly evacuated in December 2008.

On Thursday evening, Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized the settlers’ purchase of the building from its Palestinian owners for NIS 700,000 more than seven years ago.

In addition, he issued an order saying that Jews could live in the structure located in an otherwise Palestinian neighborhood in a section of the West Bank city under Israeli control.

On September 13, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that Tal Investments and the Association for Renewing the Jewish Community in Hebron had legally purchased the structure through transactions that occurred in 2004 and 2005.

The court ordered the state to return the property to the settlers, but said that Hebron’s Jewish families needed Barak’s approval to move back into the building.

Jewish community spokesman David Wilder said on Thursday, “We are very pleased that the Israeli government has finally recognized the legitimacy of Jews purchasing property in Hebron.”

Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer attacked the move, calling it “outrageous” and “totally absurd.”

“Just as Barak talks about the need for a two-state solution, he is doing his best to destroy that solution,” he said.

But Wilder said he hoped that this approval was just the first of a number of awaited authorizations.

“We expect to see a continuation of this recognition with other properties,” he said. He added that he hoped the government would also approve Jewish habitation of two other contested properties in Hebron, Beit Hamachpela and Beit Ezra.

Hebron families plan to wait until the completion of additional legal proceedings with regard to Beit Hashalom before moving back in, Wilder said.

He said that Palestinian had filed an appeal to the magistrate’s court in an effort to prevent Jews from living in the structure.

Wilder said he believed that the court would reject the appeal, particularly now that Barak had approved their living in the building. “But just as in any judicial case, we have to wait for the outcome,” he said.

The building also needs renovations to fix the damage that occurred during the December 2008 evacuation,” Wilder said.

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