Hebron building 248.88.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The Tal Construction and Development Company-Karnei Shomron and The Association for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron on Tuesday petitioned the High Court of Justice to stop the army from evicting settlers who occupied a building on the road between Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs.
The settlers occupied the four-storey building on March 29. They claimed that the Tal Construction Company had purchased the building from Palestinian Faiz Regbi and his partner via a Palestinian intermediary who acted on the Jewish company's behalf.
Regbi denied the claim and asked the police to help him evict the alleged trespassers. When they refused, he petitioned the High Court on April 17, asking it to recognize the settlers' actions as a "fresh trespass" and order the police to help him evict them.
In its first response to Regbi's petition, the state declined to invoke the "fresh trespass" definition, asking for more time to investigate the issue.
In the meantime, the army, under pressure from then-defense minister Amir Peretz, decided to use a different law - called the "military order against using property that obstructs" - to evict the settlers. The Civil Administration issued the order and the settlers appealed to a military appeals court to overturn it. That procedure is still pending.
The police completed their investigation and concluded that the settlers did not lawfully own the property and, therefore, the occupation of the building was illegal. On November 18, in the context of Regbi's petition, the state informed the High Court that it had come to the conclusion that the settlers' action constituted a "fresh trespass" and that it intended to help evict them immediately. It gave the settlers two days to petition the High Court.
In his petition, Ha'etzni charged that the state had changed its mind about the ownership of the building without explaining why, and despite the fact that Regbi had changed his version of events at least three times.
In his statement to the police, Regbi denied having agreed to sell the building. When evidence was presented that he had indeed signed a contract and received at least 80 percent of the agreed-upon sum, he admitted that he had done so, but said he had then changed his mind and returned the money to the intermediary. In his petition, he further claimed the settlers used force to occupy the building.
Ha'etzni charged that it was inexplicable why the state, even though it knew of the twists and turns in Regbi's account, would accept his word, while the Tal Construction and Development Company had provided many documents, some of them original, allegedly proving it had purchased the building. He asked the court to order the state to provide all the evidence upon which it had based its decision to evict the settlers and for an interim injunction barring the state from evicting them until it heard the case after the petitioners had studied the evidence.
Justice Hanan Meltzer gave the state 10 days to respond to the request for an interim injunction and 30 days to respond to the entire petition. In theory, the state could evict the settlers within the next 10 days since there is no order prohibiting them from doing so. But out of respect for the court, it is not likely to do so.