PM to hold meeting on settler homes to be evacuated

Likud ministers call for ministerial meeting to deal with Jewish homes in W. Bank in danger of being evacuated.

Netanyahu waves 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Netanyahu waves 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to hold a ministerial meeting this week, possibly as early as Monday, to deal with Jewish homes in the West Bank that are in danger of being evacuated, particularly those that involve private Palestinian property.
Netanyahu called the meeting at the request of Likud ministers Gideon Sa’ar, Yuli Edelstein and Yisrael Katz.
Ministers at the meeting are expected to talk about Beit Hamachpela, the three-story apartment building in Hebron that 15 Jewish families – from that city and the nearby Kiryat Arba settlement – moved into on Thursday without proper permits.
They are also expected to discuss the fate of two unauthorized outposts, Migron and Ulpana. The court has ordered the state to evict 50 Migron families by August 1.
The state separately promised the court it would evict 30 families from Ulpana, located on the outskirts of Beit El.
The issue of all three locations was raised with Netanyahu at a Likud ministerial committee meeting on Sunday.
“We spoke of the necessity of legislation to solve the problem,” Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post.
For months parliamentarians have called on Netanyahu to back legislation that would legalize the unauthorized West Bank Jewish construction en masse. To date, Netanyahu has rejected all such attempts.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) is working on collecting the 25 signatures necessary to hold a special Knesset session on the matter during the Passover break.
Netanyahu’s policy has been to take steps to legalize unauthorized Jewish construction on state land and to work to relocate building on private Palestinian property.
But Edelstein said that this guideline is not clear enough and does not address all the issues, particularly with respect to private Palestinian property. Many legislators have argued that in certain instances of abandoned property and state-funded construction, settlers should be allowed to remain in their homes and Palestinians should be compensated.
Settlers are looking to Netanyahu to personally intervene to save the endangered homes and to take firmer steps to legalize existing West Bank Jewish structures, which lack proper permits.
The Hebron families, in particular, need a permit from the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria to stay in the building and have urged Netanyahu to pressure Defense Minister Ehud Barak to grant that permit.
“We hope that tomorrow the deal [for Beit Hamachpela] will be authorized and we can celebrate Passover together with the rest of Israel,” said Shlomo Levinger, a spokesman for the 15 families.
The apartment residents are worried that the IDF will forcibly evict them.
Although the details of the Hebron, Ulpana and Migron sites differ, they are linked by Palestinians’ prior ownership of the properties.
The Hebron families said they purchased the apartment building from its Palestinian owner and moved in at this time because the structure was vacant, and they feared Palestinians would take over the building. It is located across a small park from the Cave of the Patriarchs, in a Palestinian neighborhood in a section of the city under Israeli military control.
The police and the civil administration are investigating the legality of the sale.
On Sunday attorneys for the families met with representatives from the civil administration and the attorney-general’s office for Judea and Samaria.
After the meeting, Levinger sent a notice to the press saying the civil administration had confirmed the authenticity of the sale.
However, the civil administration still had not authorized it, he said.
In Hebron, all such sales must be approved by the administration.
Since Thursday, Border Police have blocked off the building and only the families who moved in and politicians have been allowed access. Edelstein visited the families on Saturday night and Kadima MK Otniel Schneller came on Sunday morning.
On the outskirts of Beit El, 30 families in stone apartment buildings are lobbying the prime minister to urge the state not to make good on its pledge to destroy their homes by May 1.
The Ulpana outpost was first established in 1995 with NIS 4.5 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry, but without the proper permits. Its residents said the property was purchased from Palestinians. Property owners were able to obtain state grants and bank mortgages to construct their homes.
But the state has classified the land as belonging to private Palestinians and has rejected the Ulpana residents’ claim.
On Saturday night, they held an emergency meeting on the matter, after which they distributed a short video to the media with quotes from 30 parliamentarians calling for their homes to be legalized.
Migron residents have similarly contested the state’s classification of their land. Their outpost, located in the Binyamin region near Jerusalem, was similarly built with NIS 4.3 million from the Construction and Housing Ministry. The government has offered them the option to relocate their homes to state land two kilometers away.
Among the ministers expected to take part in the meeting of the ministerial ad hoc committee are Barak, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman and Ministerwithout- Portfolio Bennie Begin – who brokered a deal with Migron settlers that was later shot down by the Supreme Court.
Herb Keinon contributed on this report.