Israel Seeks Delay in Case to Evict Settlers From Hebron House

Prosecutors contend that settlers' purchase of Beit Hamachpela was fraudulent, which residents deny

Israeli border policemen hold back a Jewish youth from reaching a building occupied by settlers in Hebron, April 4, 2012.

The state has asked for another week to prepare its court case over a disputed house in Hebron from which it is trying to evict settlers.

The settlers claim they purchased the house, but the state says the purchase was fraudulent.

A week ago, the settlers petitioned the High Court of Justice against their planned eviction. Justice Neal Hendel issued an interim injunction allowing them to stay and ordered the state to respond to the petition within a week. But on Sunday the state told the court it needs more time to prepare its brief.

The settlers moved into the house in late July. Two weeks ago Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit gave them a week to accept a compromise by which they would remain in only part of the house and said that if they refused, they would be forcibly evicted. At the end of that week, the settlers filed their petition.

The house, known as Beit Hamachpela, has been the subject of legal proceedings for years. Initially, Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank ruled that the settlers hadn’t purchased it legally, so it still belonged to a Palestinian family. The settlers then turned to the Civil Administration’s appeals committee.

The appeals committee ordered the Civil Administration’s registration committee, which issued the original decision, to reconsider it, saying the process had been flawed. This reconsideration is still underway, and the state promised that the settlers wouldn’t be allowed to move in until it is finished.

Despite this promise, the settlers took possession in July. The Palestinians then petitioned the High Court to demand their eviction, and that prompted Mendelblit’s threat to evict the settlers unless they accepted the compromise.

In late August, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that while he’d prefer to “drag his feet” in evicting the settlers, since their claim to have purchased the property appeared to him to be valid, the attorney general’s instructions must be obeyed.

In response to the state’s request for more time, the settler organization behind the purchase, Harhivi Mekom Ohaleich, said in a statement, “We understand the need for additional time, since the material included in the petition proves what was clear from the start beyond any doubt: The house was purchased legally...We hope that after many years of ongoing injustice toward the purchasers of the house, Jewish property rights in Hebron will once again be made clear.”