Civil Administration refused to certify the purchase of Beit Hamachpela in the southern West Bank city.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
Settlers plan to legally appeal the refusal of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria to certify their purchase of a three-family building, known as Beit Hamachpela, located in Hebron.Settlers moved into the building at the end of March after buying it from its Palestinian owners. Security forces forcibly evicted them within a week, in early April, pending investigation of the purchase claim and because they had failed to obtain the necessary permits to enter the building.On Tuesday, the civil administration sent a letter to the settlers’ attorney, Doron Nir Tzvi, informing him that a number of technical discrepancies prevented legalization of the sale. The letter explained that the three apartments the settlers purchased were only a portion of a larger structure, which had been left to a number of heirs in 1984.The civil administration said that it had not been able to establish the identity of all the heirs to the property, or which ones owned the section of the building in question.The problem was complicated by the fact that the structure had been altered since the original owner left it to the heirs, the administration said. The purchase contract itself was very vague, and did not specify which part of the structure had been sold.In addition, one of the power of attorney documents related to the sale was notarized by the PLO Embassy in Jordan which is not recognized by Israel.Hebron Jewish community spokeswoman Orit Struck said that the purchase was legal. She noted that the administration had not questioned the fact that a monetary transaction had occurred or that a contract had been drawn up.Its response, she said, was simply a “flimsy excuse” not to recognize the sale’s legality.The only solution is for the government to authorize the sale, Struck said. Otherwise years of the courts time will be wasted validating the sale.Right-wing politicians immediately called foul and urged the government to adopt the recommendations of a government-sponsored report on unauthorized West Bank construction penned by a three-person legal team led by former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy. The report calls on the government to legalize such building and to create an independent legal system to handle West Bank property disputes.MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) charged that the civil administration’s decision had little to do with law and everything to do with Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s preelection campaign efforts.“Barak continues to push the party to the Left for the purposes of elections,” Hotovely said. “The ministerial committee must immediately convene to change the decision,” she said. It should also authorize the Levy report, “so that Jewish property rights can’t be harmed by the arbitrary will of officials and politicians.”The Knesset Land for Israel lobby echoed her opinion, calling the civil administration’s response “shameful.”It added that the time had come to end the civil administration’s “judicial abuse of settlers by denying them their basic rights.”MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) called on Likud ministers who had initially sworn to support the settlers’ purchase of the building to now make good on their word.“Once again it appears that the Likud ministers can issue statements, but in actuality, it is Barak who is in charge,” Ben-Ari said.But Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said she supported the civil administration’s stance.It can not approve the purchase if its not completely legal, Ofran said.“No political argument should change the law,” she added.
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