Settlers get three more months on 'Worshipers' Way'

Court opts to delay judgement on disputed Hebron building pending the decision of a lower court on a related matter.

Hebron home 224.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Hebron home 224.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The settlers who occupied the building on "Worshipers' Way," in Hebron between Kiryat Arba and the Machpela Cave will remain there for at least three more months, according to a decision handed down by the High Court of Justice on Thursday. The reasoning behind the extension given the settlers was technical, with the court opting to delay judgement on the issue pending the decision of a lower court on a related matter. The settlers occupied the building on March 29, 2007, despite claims by two Palestinians that they owned the building. On November 27, 2007, the Civil Administration in the West Bank issued eviction orders against the settlers on the grounds that the takeover constituted a "fresh trespass." According to the law, in the case of a fresh trespass, if the alleged owner of the property asks for the state's help in evicting the alleged trespassers within 30 days of the takeover, the state is obliged to do so. Two days after the eviction orders were issued, Attorney Nadav Ha'etzni, representing Tal Construction and Investment - Karnei Shomron and the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron, who claimed to have purchased the building from the Palestinians, petitioned the High Court against the order. Two days ago, however, the petitioners asked the court to postpone hearing the case so that they could apply to the District Court for a certificate of ownership. Ha'etzni argued that the state had issued the eviction order after claiming that some of the purchase documents the alleged Jewish owners had presented to the police were forged. He said that only a court that could hear witnesses and examine evidence could determine who indeed owned the building. The court decided not to address the request at this point. Instead, it referred to another legal procedure currently underway regarding the dispute over the building. This procedure is taking place in a military appeals court. In that case, Ha'etzni appealed to the court after the Civil Administration ordered the settlers to vacate the building on the grounds that the presence of the settlers was creating an obstruction. It did so after refusing to grant the self-proclaimed Jewish owners a "transaction permit" recognizing the sale of the building. That procedure is still taking place. During Thursday's hearing, the panel headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch decided to wait for the military appeals court to rule on Ha'etzni's appeal. If the court decides that the Civil Administration acted properly in denying the transaction permit, and could therefore order the settlers to leave the building on those grounds, there would be no need for the Supreme Court to hear the current petition. According to its own commitments, the appeals court is due to hand down its decision in March. Beinisch ordered the state to update the court in April on the results of the appeal. Until then, the situation will remain as it is.