Ownership Dispute of Contested Hebron Settler Homes Could Take 'Years' to Sort Out

Documents indicate buildings, which settlers moved into last week, were purchased from Arab owners in 2008 and then transferred to company owned by former Shin Bet agent.

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Israeli border police evict settlers from a Hebron home, January 22, 2016.
Israeli border police evict settlers from a Hebron home, January 22, 2016.Credit: Haverim Leshah Tzarah

Officials in the Civil Administration who are examining the purchase of the two buildings in Hebron that Jewish settlers moved into and were evicted from last week say the transaction should be registered with the Civil Administration’s initial registration committee, a process that could take years, Haaretz has learned.

Last Thursday settlers moved into the buildings, which they claimed were purchased by Al-Aydun al-Akarat, a company owned by former Shin Bet security service agent Assaf Nehmad. Israeli security forces removed the settlers the following day, on the orders of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. He cited their failure to obtain a permit of transaction, as required under the military orders that prevail in the occupied territories.

On Sunday, after several cabinet members protested, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the settlers would be allowed to return after the necessary permits were obtained.

Documents submitted to the Civil Administration indicate that the buildings were purchased in 2008 from their owners (whose identities are known to Haaretz) by the Israel Land Fund, which purchases property from Arabs. In 2012 the houses were transferred to Al-Aydun al-Akarat, which the same year erroneously claimed to have purchased Beit Hamakhpela, near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 2012.

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

A meeting on the issue is scheduled for Thursday in Ya’alon’s office. Sources in the Defense Ministry say the Civil Administration has not received all the documents it needs to review the transaction permit application, such as the surveyor’s map.

According to Civil Administration planners, in any event registration of the properties must go through the initial registration committee.

The full registration process could take several years. The initial registry committee deliberated for three and a half years on the claims surrounding the purchase of Beit Hamakhpela before determining that its purchase was not proved.

Knesset members Oren Hazan (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) said they were ending their boycott of Knesset votes, called to protest the eviction of the Hebron settlers, after Netanyahu ordered the formation of a new committee for settlement affairs and promised the settlers’ return to the buildings after the purchase documents were sorted out. A number of Knesset votes were postponed as a result of the boycott by Hazan and Smotrich.

“I trust the prime minister to complete the process of approving the sales documents, as he promised,” Hazan said.

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