Controversial Hebron House to Be Evacuated by April 25, Official Says

Lieberman criticizes Baraks decision to evacuate the Herbon house occupied by settlers for nearly two weeks, following a ministerial meeting that lasted for five hours late Tuesday night that failed to reach a final decision.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special ministerial committee late Tuesday night on the subject of the Hebron house that has been occupied by settlers since March 19. The meeting was attended by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Vice Prime Minstier Moshe Yaalon, Minister Benny Begin, and representatives of the Civil Administration.

A senior defense official with knowledge of the details of the meeting explained that a decision was reached to evacuate the house if in fact it has been occupied illegally, considering the fact that settlers entered the house without the proper permits from the Civil Administration.

A Palestinian house in Hebron occupied by settlers
Emil Salman

Legal experts that participated in the meeting explained that evacuation must take place within 30 days of the initial entry, meaning by April 25. If the settlers do not evacuate of their own volition, they will be evacuated by force, said the defense official. Discussions of the matter are expected to continue on Wednesday.

A senior official with knowledge of the discussion informed that the sale documents in the settlers possession will be checked again within the coming days to determine if they are real or counterfeit. One of the possibilities that arose in the discussion was an official request to the settlers to return to their original homes until the issue was cleared up. Currently, while the facts are being determined, soldiers will guard the house, in order to protect from being taken over by Palestinians, said the official, if it turns out that the purchase was legal, the settlers will be allowed to return.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman commented on the events surrounding the house in Hebron, which has been occupied by Jewish settlers since last week. Lieberman criticized the decisions of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and even hinted at a possible rift in the governing coalition.

"I'm concerned by one-sided moves by coalition partners," Lieberman said. "We made great efforts to keep the coalition together. Yisrael Beiteinu made a major contribution toward that."

Lieberman added that "I see the dissonance between Migron and Hebron. The absurd thing is, in Migron, despite the settlement having existed for 13 years, residents are being evicted because of property rights. In Hebron, residents are being evicted despite property rights. If it is the same right here and there, it cannot be that the Defense Minister is making decisions without support from the government or the cabinet. On the basis of what happened in Mirgron, this decision is more than irritating, and terms of the coalition, it was a grave diplomatic mistake.

The central issue of the ministerial committee discussion was to be the Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El, the fate of which is tied up in the courts. However as an evacuation order was issued to the Hebron settlers, after Netanyahus attemps to stall the evacuation, the issue of the Hebron house was added to the agenda. The evacuation order is set to go into effect at 3 PM on Wednesday, if the occupiers do not evacuate earlier.

Right wing politicians arrived at the house in Hebron on Tuesday, including Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, MK Tzipi Hotobeli and Likkud Minister Moshe Kahlon. Ehud Barak will not decide about evacuation on his own, said Katz on Tuesday morning, and added that he supports and appreciates the Jewish settlers.

I came to support the settlers. I think that Jews have the right to purchase a home anywhere in the world, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that they stay here. As long as it was done legally, they should be supported, continued Katz. Katz also said that he considered the fact that the Palestinian Authority is threatening the lives of those who sold the property is a shame, and that the government needs to demand they be left alone.

Yesha Council chairman Danny Dayan said Tuesday morning that If Ehud Barak orders the IDF to action in Hebron against the wishes of the government and stands at its head, it would be the most callous political use of IDF officers that I can remember. In that kind of situation, the soldiers and officers should be wearing Independence Party hats.