Hebron families pitch tent outside disputed home

Attorney of families says client feared Arab employees in Civil Administration would tell PA of sale if they sought permit.

Hebron protest tent 370 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Hebron protest tent 370
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Hebron settlers plan to man a protest tent in the parking lot outside a disputed three-story apartment building until the government allows them to return to the structure from which they were forcibly evicted on Wednesday.
“We plan to stay in the tent until we are allowed to move back in,” said Shlomo Levinger, a spokesman for the Hebron families.
He called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to keep his word that they would be allowed to live in the building once the legal issues were resolved.
Their attorney, Doron Nir Tzvi, said that his clients did not intend to appeal at present to the High Court of Justice.
“The turkey does not run to the slaughter,” he said, and added that he himself did not trust the courts.
The families have argued that the issue here is political, not legal, and what is needed is a decision by Netanyahu to allow them to stay.
The settlers held a press conference late Thursday afternoon from a folding table on the street outside the home. At times their voices were drowned out by the sound of a call to prayer from a local mosque and by passing cars.
To the left of the building, settlers have already set up a small white tent awning under which they and their supporters can gather.
In front of it, they have posted a handwritten sign calling for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to be fired. Although their appeal is to Netanyahu, they blame Barak for their forced eviction.
Children milled around inside and outside the tent, eating pizza and riding bicycles.
A Palestinian girls’ school to the right of the tent was already closed for the day. To the left, soldiers stood guard in front of the apartment building, which was blocked off by movable steel police gates.
In the pre-dawn hours last Thursday, 15 Jewish families moved into the vacant structure, which they have since called Beit Hamachpela, after buying it from its Palestinian owner.
The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria and the police have said that although a sale occurred, it was unclear to them whether the Palestinian who sold the building was in fact the owner.
On Wednesday, the IDF forcibly removed residents from the building in a surprise raid and have since blocked off all access to it. The civil administration said in its evacuation order that the settlers must leave because they failed to file the necessary permits, which both authorize the sale and allow them to reside in the structure.
It added that it was concerned that the settlers’ presence in a structure in the otherwise Palestinian neighborhood would create unnecessary friction.
Settlers have argued that the civil administration has all the paperwork necessary to authorize their presence and that only politics have prevented them from remaining in the building.
It is impossible in Hebron to seek a permit from the civil administration prior to moving into a structure, Levinger said.
Such a request, Nir Tzvi said, would have alerted the Palestinian Authority to the sale and it would have barred their entry.
Arab employees in the civil administration would have leaked news of the sale to the PA, he explained.
The families moved into the building, however, only after they learned that the PA had arrested the Palestinian who sold them the structure and had confirmed the sale under interrogation.
“The moment we knew this, we had no choice, because we were in a race against the PA,” Nir Tzvi said.
“After we entered, we requested a permit,” he said. But the moment the purchase documents were given to them, a permit should have been issued, he said.
Nir Tzvi said that the administration made it very difficult for them to submit the permit request. He added that among the evidence submitted for the sale was a videotape of the transaction.
Levinger said that Hebron Jews had worked for three years on the matter and that the actual transaction had been completed months ago.
All week, representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office promised that the structure would not be evacuated, Levinger said.
“Netanyahu deceived them and us,” he said.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu agreed to allow the families’ removal from the structure after he received an opinion in favor of the eviction from Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein, who said that it was important to maintain the rule of law.
Netanyahu and Barak issued statements about the importance of upholding the law.
“All this talk of law by Barak and Netanyahu made us chuckle,” Levinger said. “These two are the last ones from whom we would learn about values and morals.”