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Photo: Gil Yohanan
Prime Minister Netanyahu
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Netanyahu seeks to return evicted settlers to Hebron houses
The prime minister says once proper permits are in place, the 80 settlers removed from the West Bank apartments could return to the apartments they say they bought from the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would allow Jewish settlers evicted by the IDF from two houses in the West Bank city of Hebron to return once proper permits were in place.

 

  

About 80 settlers were removed from Hebron on Friday a day after Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon withheld his required approval of their occupancy in apartments in a city where tensions between Israelis and Palestinians run high.

 

The settler group said it had bought the homes from Palestinian owners. But Ya'alon said the settlers had failed to seek permission from Israeli authorities to move in and were trespassing.

A soldier taking down the Israeli flag during the eviction of the homes (Photo: Reuters)
A soldier taking down the Israeli flag during the eviction of the homes (Photo: Reuters)

 

A Netanyahu aide said on Friday that the prime minister supported Ya'alon's decision to evict the settlers, a step that drew criticism from members of the right-wing coalition government and threats to withhold support in Knesset votes.

 

But the aide said the settlers could take up residency again after completing the necessary paperwork.

 

In public remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said his government "supports the settlements" and would expedite an examination of the settlers' case.

 

"The moment that the purchase process is authorized, we will allow the population of the two houses in Hebron," Netanyahu said, confirming his aide's remarks.

 

“The process of checking is starting today,” he added. “We will do it as quickly as possible. If, in any case, it is not completed within a week, I will see to it that the cabinet receives a status report.”

 

Meanwhile, the government decided to form a ministerial committee on settlements, based on the recommendations of the 2012 Levy report. The committee's formation will essentially strip the defense minister of his authority to evacuate homes in the territories.

 

Education Minister Naftali Bennett demanded the committee be formed as part of Bayit Yehudi's coalition agreement with the ruling Likud party.

 

The settlers being removed from the Hebron homes (Photo: AFP)
The settlers being removed from the Hebron homes (Photo: AFP)

  

Some of the Likud ministers attacked Ya'alon, also a member of Likud, for the decision to evict the homes.

 

"He caused an injustice that cries out to the heavens," claimed ministers Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levin.

 

"It doesn't make sense that illegal construction in Hebron is enforced, but not in the Arab sector," Levin said. "According to what guidelines was the evacuation done? What are the actions you took before deciding to evict?"

 

Ya'alon addressed the attacks on him from the right, telling Army Radio that he has "no common language" with Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich and certain critics in Likud.

 

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel referenced Ya'alon's words before a government meeting. "I have a common language with everyone," he said. "You always have to find ways to reach understandings and rather than criticize."

 

Ariel explained Bayit Yehudi's demand to form a ministerial committee on settlements, saying "it shouldn't be a decision of just one minister but of a ministerial committee that represents the entire government."

 

Moran Azulay, Yael Friedson and Omri Efraim contributed to this report.

 

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