(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A lawyer representing the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish Quarter in Hebron called on the Minister of Justice, the State Comptroller and the Civil Service Commissioner to reprimand Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz for allegedly failing to answer a letter sent two months ago regarding the occupation of the Hebron wholesale market.
The lawyer, Doron Nir-Tzvi, sent the letter on Sunday and released its contents the following day.
In the original letter, Nir-Zvi accused Mazuz of breaking a state commitment to speed up legal procedures that would allow Jewish settlers to move back into homes they had established without permission in the Hebron wholesale market if they agreed in the meantime to evacuate them peacefully in accordance with a military order.
The promise was made on January 27 by the commander of IDF forces in the West Bank, Brig-Gen. Ya'ir Golan, during negotiations with leaders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron aimed at preventing a head-on confrontation. Golan signed a written agreement with the settlers, who promised to leave the market by midnight on January 31.
On January 30, Mazuz issued a statement saying that "the voluntary evacuation [by the settlers]â€¦is not conditional on any compromise or concession on the part of the state and that the state did not give a promise to allow the buildings to be reoccupied."
Chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz also reprimanded Golan for signing the agreement.
In his first letter, which was sent to Mazuz on April 6, Nir-Tzvi wrote that the signed agreement constituted a "state commitment" and that Golan was regarded as having the authority to reach such an agreement.
Nir-Tzvi said the agreement was a logical extension of the state's response to a High Court petition by the municipality of Hebron demanding that the settlers leave the premises, which had been leased by the municipality. The market originally belonged to the Sephardi community in Hebron. It was abandoned after the 1929 riots, in which more than 60 Jews were massacred, and taken over by the Jordanian Custodian of Abandoned Properties after the 1948 War of Independence. The government leased the buildings to the Hebron municipality. After the 1967 War of Independence, the military government replaced the Jordanian custodian. In its response to the petition, the government raised the possibility of terminating the lease with the Hebron municipality and allowing settlers others than those who had illegally squatted in the buildings to live there.
In a response to the media issued Monday, Mazuz wrote that Golan's promise "to complete the process of terminating the lease as quickly as possible" was made in violation of the guidelines handed down by the government and the chief of staffâ€¦and it is obvious that the details of the agreement were unknown to the Attorney-General or the government."
Mazuz also stressed that the state's declaration to the court was much more guarded than Nir-Tzvi's description. He quoted it as saying, "to the extent that a decision is made, conditional on the necessary legal procedures, to end the municipality's key money lease, then after that the government will consider what to do with the stores, including the possibility of leasing them to Jewish settlers, conditional on the approval of the Attorney-General."
Nir-Tzvi also wrote that after the settlers left the building at the end of January, military and Defense Ministry officials had backed the move to terminate the Hebron municipality lease, "but their opinions have been lying on your desk for a long time like deadweight. This too strengthens the impression and is testimony to the fact that you are apparently the obstacle in the way of the various authorities and that you are the one who is stopping the process and thus violating the agreement made with my clients."
Nir-Tzvi added that if the reports about Mazuz's position on the matter were accurate, he was creating the impression that he was not guided by objective or legal considerations. He demanded to know Mazuz's explicit position.
In his indirect response to the letter on Monday, Mazuz wrote that the government was currently examining the legal possibility of terminating the key money lease. "Only after this stage is completed, and on condition that the decision will be to terminate the lease and in keeping with the required legal procedures, will the stage of deciding what to do with the buildings begin," he wrote.