IDF Brass Calls for Immediate Removal of New Hebron Settlement

Settlers say they purchased the property legally and their representatives show records of the deal.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Israel Defense Forces is demanding the immediate eviction of the settlers who took over a house in the Arab part of Hebron last week. The security establishment has called the takeover a provocation, but the move has won the support of some politicians.

The settlers said they purchased the property legally. Their representatives Sunday showed records of the deal, including money transfers, to Military Advocate General staff.

The building taken over by settlers in Hebron on Sunday. Credit: Michal Fattal

The police, who are looking into the legality of the West Bank sale, said they found no irregularities or forgeries.

The issue is to be discussed Monday by the ministerial committee that deals with outposts, headed by Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Minister Benny Begin. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and MK Yuli Edelstein, Likud members who have expressed their support for the move, will also take part in the meeting.

Sources in the cabinet said the settlers will be allowed to stay if there is no indication that the sale was forged or illegal.

The commander of the Hebron Brigade, Col. Guy Hazut, and other officers in the Central Command are putting heavy pressure on the army brass to immediately evacuate the house, which the settlers moved into on Wednesday night.

Hazut is demanding that the settlers leave the house immediately, based on a military law in force since the Six-Day War that any sale of property in the West Bank requires prior approval. The settlers apparently sought no such permission for the house in question.

However, the army will have trouble getting the settlers to meet its demand, because the rule is not enforced in practice.

People who have spoken to Hazut over the past few days said he was not told about the purchase and was surprised by the takeover. They said Hazut felt personally insulted and told the leaders of the Hebron Jewish community that he disapproved of the move.

The house is located in a closed military zone, but Jewish community activists come and go freely through the area.

A key figure in the land purchase is Assaf Nehmad, a former Shin Bet security service man, who speaks Arabic and helps settlers purchase land from Arab owners who may be unwilling to sell to someone they know is Jewish.

Nehmad owns 99 percent of the company that purchased the house, Al-Aydun al-Akarat, which he founded in 2010 when the settlers first started trying to buy the house.

According to material presented Sunday to the Military Advocate General's staff, the house was registered to two Palestinians, one of whom bequeathed ti to a Palestinian man by the name of Hosni al-Tamimi. Tamimi sold it to a front man for the settlers, Mohammed Abu-Shahala, who sold it to Al-Aydun.

Sources in Hebron said that Abu-Shahala, who is originally from Gaza, was an officer in the Palestinian Authority security forces, which is how he got to the West Bank.

He made a number of property deals over the past few years and is now detained in a PA investigation facility.

The exact price paid for the house is unknown, but is believed to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A Palestinian businessman who owns property nearby said the house is only really worth about NIS 250,000, because it is on the main street in Hebron, where Palestinian traffic is prohibited.

Many Palestinian homeowners in that area have moved to areas of Hebron under Palestinian Authority control.

Nehmad, who has been involved in property deals for the past 17 years, works discreetly behind the scenes, using skills he learned fielding agents in the Shin Bet.

According to an affidavit he submitted this month in court, Nehmad was "responsible for handling the front man, building the proper cover for a deal so it would not seem to the seller to be 'reclamation of land' by Jews, but an innocent deal between one Arab and another."

However, forged papers have allegedly shown up in some of the deals Nehmad has been involved in over the years. He was behind the purchase of the so-called "House of Contention," also in Hebron, which settlers took over in 2007.

Israeli authorities launched an investigation after the owner complained that the sales contract was forged. Nehmad was questioned under caution.

In 2008 the Jewish residents were evicted and the house was fenced off.

When the the setters took the case to court in an effort to get the deed to the house, Nehmad's behind-the-scenes prowess was revealed.

Nehmad explained that to "maintain secrecy," he had used the services of Walid Habiballah, a resident of Ein Mahel near Nazareth, to facilitate the sale. Habiballah, who said he and Nehmad have known each other for years, said Nehmad gave him money to clandestinely give a third man. Habiballah said he received NIS 1,000, which he said was to reimburse his expenses.

Nehmad also collects information about apartments for sale.

In a deal he worked on for the Elad association in Silwan, whose details came to light in court, he presented himself as "Avner" and used a front man named Maurizio, who transferred property rights to Nehmad. He received $80,000 for brokering the deal.

"We worked together to create the most stable cover so they could claim they were not involved in the deal," said Nehmad.

Nehmad declined to respond to Haaretz's queries for this report.



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