Court slams state over Hebron building

Military appeals court says Civil Administration's conduct in matter raises "more than one question."

hebron house 224.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
hebron house 224.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The state's conduct in the dispute over the house on Worshiper's Way was criticized again Thursday for the second time in less than a week. This time the criticism came from the military appeals court which is hearing an appeal by the settlers, represented by Tal Construction and Investment of Karnei Shomron and the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron, against the military government's refusal to authorize a purchase deed submitted by the alleged owners, making their stay in the building illegal. Some 20 families currently live in the building situated half-way between Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs on a strategic street which Kiryat Arba residents traverse to pray at the holy site. Two legal procedures are being conducted at the same time over the building, one based on the military's Civil Administration arguing that the settlers' occupancy of the building is obstructive, and another based on the Palestinian owner's claim that the building was never properly sold in the first place. The first move is being fought by the settlers in a military appeals court, while the second is the subject of a review by the High Court of Justice. During the initial proceedings in the military appeals court, the court had issued a freeze order, barring the Civil Administration from evicting the settlers on the basis of the military order regarding obstructive use of property. However, after the Civil Administration issued the eviction order on the basis of its new conclusion that the property had not been purchased but rather "recently seized" by trespassers, it asked the appeals court to lift the freeze so that it could evict the settlers immediately. Late last week, the appeals court rejected the request. It wrote that "the conduct of the Civil Administration in this affair has been problematic - it changed its mind several times regarding the degree of its intervention in the affairs of the property and the reasons it gave for doing so in such a way as to raise more than one question." In the same spirit, it added that "the position of the Civil Administration regarding the appellants creates problems, and it seems to me that its frequent changes in direction, which may not have ended yet, support the conclusion that it is best for the freeze to continue." The upshot of the appellate court's decision is that the freeze will remain in place until the High Court hands downs it final ruling on whether to accept or reject the settler's petition against the eviction order based on the argument that the property was recently seized by trespassers. It is likely to take months for the ruling to be delivered.