Netanyahu: Israel to Permit Settlers to Return to Hebron Houses After They Prove Ownership

Prime minister says Israel supports settlements, 'especially in days like these.' Netanyahu also thanks Obama for planning to attend Holocaust memorial event at Israeli Embassy in D.C.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting that Israel will allow the settlers evicted from two houses in Hebron to return once the proper paperwork is in order.

"The government supports the settlements, especially in days like these, when they are under terror attacks," adding that "at the same time, we are a lawful country and must respect the rule of the law," Netanyahu said.

"The moment that the purchase process is authorized, we will allow the population of the two houses in Hebron," Netanyahu continued, confirming comments made Friday by officials at the Prime Minister's Office that the Israeli settlers evicted from two houses in Hebron earlier in the day would be allowed to return once they receive the proper permits. 

"We will begin the examination today and we will do it quickly. If it doesn’t come to an end within a week, I will make sure that a status report will be submitted to the cabinet," said Netanyahu.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, both of Habayit Hayehudi Party, called on Netanyahu on Sunday morning to set up a ministerial committee on settlement affairs, as agreed upon in the coalition agreements. "Agreements must be honored," said Bennett.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) urged the prime minister to complete the examination of the Hebron houses' purchasing process. "The legal purchase of homes in Hebron, the city of the patriarchs, should have a legal backing like that of the purchase of a home in Tel Aviv," she said. "I call on the prime minister and the defense minister to hasten the examination of the legality of the home purchases in Hebron in order to allow the buyers to return and inhabit the house in the shortest possible time."  

A soldier removes Israeli flag from a house as troops forcibly evict Jewish settlers from homes they illegally entered in Hebron, January 22, 2016.
Reuters

Netanyahu also thanked U.S. President Barack Obama "for deciding to attend an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Israeli Embassy. This sort of thing hasn’t happened in many years, and it is more proof that the relations between Israel and the U.S., despite the disagreements, are solid and strong."

The Israeli embassy stated that this would be the first time this ceremony, held in cooperation with Yad Vashem, will be held in the U.S. The families of the four people to be posthumously honored will attend, alongside top administration officials, congressmen and Jewish community representatives. 

"We've heard over the past years talk of the collapse of the relations. What happened are talks of collapse, but it seems that the relations are getting stronger – for example the memorandum of understanding that we will likely reach in the upcoming months regarding defense aid for the next 10 years," Netanyahu said.

Haaretz