IDF Accuses Shin Bet of Hiding Information in Hebron Dispute

The Shin Bet security service knew four months before the settler occupation of Hebron's "Machpela House" that they had bought the home, but never informed the IDF, an army Central Command senior officer charged yesterday.

"If we had known, it could have helped us a great deal," said the Central Command officer. "The Hebron area is very sensitive; it's not a good place to be surprised."

Neither the IDF Spokesman nor the Shin Bet would comment.

At the end of last month, seven families from Hebron's Jewish community entered the house in the middle of the night, taking the IDF by surprise. By the time forces were summoned, the house was occupied.

Purchasing the house took considerable time and was already in progress as early in October 2010. To avoid raising suspicions that the purchase was being made by a front man for settlers, the agent who purchased the house on the settlers held it for a few months before transferring ownership to them. Afterward, officers in the Judea Regional Brigade were furious at the settlers for buying and occupying the house behind their backs. Now, the army source said, it appears the settlers were not the only ones keeping something from them.

At a Tuesday meeting of Likud ministers, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser were critical of how long it was taking the Civil Administration to check the purchase documents. Many politicians who support the settlers' takeover of the house and vehemently opposed their evacuation have been grumbling that the Civil Administration is taking its time with the documents because of the political agenda of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who ordered the evacuation.

Likud MK Yariv Levin this week visited the house, which was sealed by military order, after he and his settler hosts got the army's permission to enter. More politicians are expected to visit the house in coming days and demand that the review of the documents be completed and, if the papers prove to be authentic, that the settlers be allowed to return.

Life is not quiet in the Beit El area, either, with the government supposed to demolish five residential buildings on the town's Ulpana Hill within 10 days. Transport Minister Yisrael Katz is expected to visit the area this morning, and on Sunday a rally is scheduled there expected to attract thousands of Likud members, as well as party MKs and ministers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to convene a small group of ministers today to discuss how to solve the dilemma and please both the High Court of Justice and Likud ministers at the same time.