Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday night asked the Defense Ministry to
delay Tuesday’s 3 p.m. voluntary evacuation order for Beit Hamachpela, the
Hebron apartment building – to allow the 15 Jewish families that reside there
the opportunity to make their legal case.
But the vaguely worded request
puzzled both the families and right-wing politicians who rushed to support them
when the evacuation order was issued Monday afternoon.
“All the documents
and information were given to the Civil Administration [of Judea and Samaria]
yesterday,” said Shlomo Levinger, spokesman for the Hebron families.
only thing that remains is for [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak to permit us to
stay – and so far he has not,” Levinger said.
However, he said it was his
understanding that the evacuation order had been extended and Netanyahu had
taken a firm stand in their defense.
Defense Ministry sources, however,
said that the 3 p.m deadline still stands.
The prime minister’s request
was to allow the building’s inhabitants to present their arguments, and take all
necessary legal steps to stay – which can be done within the evacuation order’s
timeline, the sources said.
Defense officials cautioned against the
assumption that a forced evacuation would occur immediately after the 3
p.m. deadline. “It is ultimately up to Defense Minister Ehud Barak when
to carry out the evacuation,” one official said. “He will have to determine when
the appropriate time will be.”
The official said that judging by previous
evacuations of unauthorized settler homes in the West Bank, the IDF generally
prefers to carry them out at night or when residents are not home and will be
taken by surprise.
In 2008, the IDF forcibly evacuated settlers from a
four-story apartment building in Hebron whose ownership was in dispute, in a
mid-afternoon raid when few people were in the structure.
on Monday cordoned off the area around the Beit Hamachpela (House of the
The three-story structure is located in front of a
small park and is across the way from the Cave of the Patriarchs. Families from
Hebron and the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba moved into the apartment
building during last Thursday’s pre-dawn hours. Levinger said that Hebron Jews
privately bought the structure from its Palestinian owner.
The buyers did
not, however, seek the necessary purchase permit from the civil
It is also likely that had they done so, they would have
been required to obtain an additional permit from the Defense Ministry due to
the structure’s sensitive location.
Security sources confirmed that
setters had purchased the structure, but said it was still unclear if the
Palestinian who sold it to them was the building’s sole legal owner.
the real issue, the security sources said, was the absence of a permit, as well
as the building’s location in an otherwise Palestinian neighborhood in a section
of the city under Israeli military control.
Indeed, the civil
administration did not question the legality of the sale in its evacuation order
and focused instead on security issues and the absence of permits.
noted that none of the necessary permits for purchase and access to the
structure had been obtained or even sought.
It said it wanted to return
the property to its prior status, before Thursday’s events unfolded.
civil administration said its primary consideration was maintaining public order
and upholding the city’s status quo.
This will ensure normal living
conditions and prevent friction between the populations that may lead to
fighting and injuries, the administration said, referring to the tense relations
in the city between Israelis and Palestinians.
Taking the law into one’s
own hands in the area is prohibited, the civil administration said.
Sunday, right-wing ministers and MKs had already appealed to Netanyahu to
intervene and legalize the families’ presence in the building.
agreed to hold a special ministerial meeting to deal with the matter, but has
not set a date.
Ministers who had hoped he would deal with the issue on
Monday, say they now hope that the meeting will be held Tuesday.
evacuation order was issued, Likud Ministers Yuli Edelstein, Gideon Sa’ar and
Limor Livnat immediately issued statements in support of the
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) personally sent a letter
to Netanyahu asking that he review the facts in a fair and balanced manner,
saying the government should strengthen Jewish life in Hebron.
on Netanyahu to hold a security cabinet meeting on the matter.
said, “The very fact that there is a discussion about signatures and forms shows
that there is no problem with the rights and the purchase of the families in the
house,” adding that he had examined the purchase documents.
“I call on
the defense minister to immediately cancel the decision about the evacuation of
the families and give them formal permission instead,” he said.
Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m, a number of parliamentarians including Likud
ministers Yisrael Katz and Moshe Kahlon plan to visit the apartment building,
which is now a closed military zone.
Levinger said the families do not
intend to voluntarily leave the building.
If an evacuation is ordered, it
will be overseen by the IDF Central Command but the Border Policemen will mostly
carry it out with IDF soldiers securing the perimeter.