According to the law, now that the settlers have been evicted, the disputed building in Hebron should be handed over to Faez Rajabi, the Palestinian who claims to own it and who, according to the state and the High Court of Justice, was in possession of it on the evening of March 19, 2007, when the settlers moved in.
But in the High Court ruling that rejected a petition by the settlers to cancel the civil administration's eviction order against the settler occupants, Justice Ayala Procaccia noted that Rajabi had agreed not to exercise this right.
"According to the law," Procaccia wrote, "possession of the building should have been given back directly to Rajabi, from whom it was taken illegally. However, during the [High Court hearing on the petition], the respondents [i.e. the minister of defense, OC Southern Command, the head of the civil administration in Judea and Samaria, the commander of the Judea and Samaria Police District and Rajabi] agreed that when the petitioners or those acting on their behalf were evicted from the building, possession of it would be transferred to the army until the court determined the rights of the parties claiming ownership.
"According to this agreement, after the eviction, the army will lock the doors and no one will be allowed entry until a final verdict is reached on the matter of who owns the building by an authorized court," the court wrote.
Thus, the building will remain empty not only until the Jerusalem District Court determines who owns it, but also until the Supreme Court hands down its ruling, should the losing side in the district court appeal the decision.
In normal circumstances, when a person occupies a property that was in the possession of someone else, the state may, within 30 days of the illegal occupation, issue an eviction order according to the rule of "fresh trespass." It may use force, if necessary, to implement the order. Once the trespasser has been evicted, the property returns to the person who was in possession of it before the illegal occupation.
In this case, however, because of the explosiveness of the situation in Hebron, Rajabi, backed (or possibly ordered) by the other respondents, waived that right.
The settlers, in particular The Association of Rebuilders of the Jewish Community in Hebron, have laid claims to all the buildings in downtown area owned by Jews before the 1929 riots in which 60 Jews were massacred and most of the others abandoned the city. They do not claim to have bought these buildings from Palestinians, but that they are entitled to them as the successors of the Jews who lived there 80 years ago.
However, there are disputes between settlers and Palestinians over the ownership of land, some of which was registered as private Palestinian land in the pre-1967 Jordanian land registry. In these cases, such as the illegal outpost of Migron, Jews claim to have bought the land from the registered Palestinian landowner or his heir.
The settlers maintain, as they do in the case of the disputed building in Hebron, that since the Palestinian Authority has issued a death warrant against any Palestinian who sells land to a Jew, it is difficult to complete the bureaucratic aspects of the purchase and register the land under the name of the Jewish buyer.