State revokes Hebron house purchase

Ministry rules real estate deal bogus; police can proceed to evict settlers squatting at 'Beit Hashalom.'

hebron settlers 298.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
hebron settlers 298.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
The state concluded on Sunday that Jews did not purchase the four-story building overlooking the road leading from Kiryat Arba to the Machpela Cave and that police may evict the Jewish settlers who have been occupying it since March without recourse to a court order. "After the police completed their investigation and after the evidence regarding the question of a 'fresh occupation' was presented to the police [and] the state prosecution, it was decided, with the concurrence of the attorney-general, that the police should help evacuate the 'fresh occupation' from the building. Under these circumstances, the government intends to help the petitioners evacuate the occupiers." More than 100 settlers occupied the empty building overlooking Worshipers' Way, as the Kiryat Arba-Machpela Cave axis is known, on March 29. They claimed the four-story apartment building had been purchased by a Jewish company, Tal Investments, and the Association for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron from its Palestinian owners for $700,000. The owners denied they had sold the house. A few days after the occupation of the structure, then-defense minister Amir Peretz announced he would order security forces to immediately evict the settlers who had remained in the building after the initial occupation. Ultimately, however, the government decided to investigate the claims that the Palestinians had sold the building to the Jewish company and also to determine whether the takeover by the settlers could be considered a "fresh occupation." In its response on Sunday to a petition filed by Faiz Regbi, one of the alleged owners of the building, the state for the first time declared that the Palestinians did not sell the house to the Jewish company and that the takeover by the settlers constituted a "fresh occupation." "Under the circumstances," wrote the state's representative Attorney Gilad Shirman, "the state intends to help the petitioners evacuate the fresh occupation." Nadav Ha'etzni, the attorney who represented Hebron's Jewish community said Sunday the High Court should reject the state's response because it did not include any explanation for the reasoning behind it. "The contents of the response are so empty that it is absolutely unacceptable," he said. "How are we supposed to respond to it when it doesn't say anything? This is all they had to offer after taking so long to respond to the petition," he said. But even as the state ruled against Hebron's Jewish community, in New York City some 600 supporters gathered for an annual fundraising dinner to support the continued growth of the Hebron Jewish community, including their drive to purchase property in that city. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.