Jewish Settlers Reoccupy Hebron Building After Israeli Authority Rules in Their Favor

Over a year after being evicted from disputed building, settlers move in without army approval

Israeli border police officers are seen in front of a disputed building in the West Bank city of Hebron on July 26, 2017.
Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

Jewish settlers have moved back into a building next door to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron from which they were evicted in March 2018, after the relevant Israeli authority ruled that they own half the three-story building. Army sources say the reoccupation had not been coordinated with the military.

The ruling about the building was made by the First Registration Committee, a juridical body within the civil administration that among other things determines ownership of properties in the West Bank.

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Ownership of the building in question has been in dispute for years. The settler organization says it bought the building from the heirs of its original owners; other heirs claim they still own it.

In 2015, the First Registration Committee ruled that the building could not be registered in the name of the settlers, and that claims they had purchased it were untrue. The settlers appealed and the appellate committee ordered the First Registration Committee to revisit the matter.

Last week the First Registration Committee announced that the settlers did own 50 percent of the building.

Its decision states among other things that the Palestinian who sold the building – according to the settlers – was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority, together with other people involved in the transaction. That indicates the deal was real, according to the ruling.  If the property hadn't been sold to Jews then there would have been no arrests, the decision says.

The registration document submitted as evidence for the sale attests that the transaction did happen, the committee also wrote. No evidence has been put forward that contradicts the registration, the decision noted. It therefore decided to register to Lot No. 111 to the company associated with the settlers and the heirs of Ibrahim Hasin Avi Rajba.

While the building may be jointly owned, occupancy is not permissible yet, because the building technically belongs in its entirety to both parties. Each grain of dust and each brick are jointly owned by the settlers and the heirs; it cannot be said that this or that apartment belongs to the one or the other.

The resolution to this legal conundrum is usually a process of dissociation in which the joint property is divided. But the settlers have reoccupied the building without that process even starting.

In March 2018, settlers who had taken possession without permits and who appealed their eviction vacated the building after the High Court of Justice ruled that there was no reason not to evict them.

The military said that the High Court of Justice ruling from March 2018 accepted the state's view that the part of the building evacuated in 2012 shouldn't be reoccupied until the First Registration Committee weighs in. In August 2018, the First Registration Committee decided that the company associated with the settlers was entitled to be registered as owner of 50 percent of the rights to the property, as joint owners with the heirs of the original owner. The reoccupation was not coordinated with the army, it said.