IDF bans coalition chairman from visiting families in Hebron house

The Defense Ministry told 'The Jerusalem Post' that it had received a request to approve the visit only that morning and that it needed more time to process it.

August 1, 2017 04:38
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers outside of Beit Hamachpela building in Hebron.

IDF soldiers outside of Beit Hamachpela building in Hebron. . (photo credit: ENLARGE THE PLACE OF THY TENT)

The Defense Ministry banned coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) from making a solidarity visit to 15 families who on July 25 moved into a three-story apartment building in Hebron known as Beit Hamachpela without permission.

Bitan is among those politicians who have called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow the families to remain in the structure until they are able to prove their claim of purchase, which they first made five years ago in 2012.

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Bitan believes “the settlers legally purchased Beit Hamachpela,” his spokesman said.

Initially Bitan protested the Defense Ministry’s decision, explaining the ban was “scandalous.” “I have a right to visit Hebron,” Bitan said.

The Defense Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that it had received a request to approve the visit only that morning and that it needed more time to process it.

“The building is a closed military zone order and for security reasons, the IDF recommended not approving the request at this time,” the Defense Ministry said. It added that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s office had also taken that position.

Bitan opted to abide by the decision and instead toured the area around the apartment building in Hebron. According to his office he decided he didn’t want to give Israeli- Arab legislators an excuse to violate any security orders that would ban them from entering the Temple Mount.

In the week since the families moved into the house, a number of lawmakers have visited the house, including Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) and MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi).

Granting the families permission to remain in the home is particularly important now, Moalem-Refaeli said, when she visited the home on Sunday. “This is a time when there is great public confusion over our ties to the land. We must therefore return to Hebron, which is the source of our connection to the land.”

Moalem-Refaeli added that the Defense Ministry had already given the families permission to purchase the property but had not authenticated the sale. There is no reason for the families to wait until the Civil Administration agrees that the sale is valid before moving into the structure, she said.

On Monday, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan went to the home with his family and announced they planned to stay there until the end of the week in a show of solidarity with the families.

“I came here as a citizen of the country who cares about justice and as a public servant who does not understand how it can be that people who purchased the property could not remain in their home,” Dagan told Army Radio.

It is an injustice, he said, that is underscored by the structure’s location, across the parking lot from the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

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