"Peretz is neglecting his duty," Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer said. "If the settlers aren’t evacuated today, we’ll witness a second Amona here tomorrow," he said, referring to the violent evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost last year.
About a week ago, some 300 yeshiva students and youths took up occupation of the four-story building near Hebron, planning to establish a yeshiva and permanent housing there.
The settlers claimed to have legal ownership papers for the house, which is located near the road linking Kiryat Arba and the Cave of the Patriarchs (Abraham’s burial site) in Hebron.
However Bayez Rajabe, a Palestinian resident of Hebron, insists that he is the legal owner of the building and denies ever selling it. Rajabe was questioned extensively by police on the matter, and the settlers' documentation is also being examined to determine its authenticity.
MKs say gov't must act fastKnesset Members Avshalom Vilan (Meretz-Yachad) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) attended the rally and spoke with local Palestinians, including members of the Rajabe family.
"Peretz must decide whether he wants to build another Jewish settlement here and set Hebron on fire, or whether he wants calm. The Israeli government needs to extinguish this flame before it’s too late," Vilan told Ynet.
"Unfortunately, as always, the settlers are the ones who determine the policy on the ground," he added.
Khenin charged that the government was all talk and no action when it came to controlling settlement activity.
“Again we’re seeing the familiar cycle of settlers taking over houses and land and creating more points of friction. We see the true character of the government of (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert and (Vice Premier Shimon) Peres, which is all talk about peace and evacuating settlements. But in actuality it does the complete opposite and gives permits for more outposts and settlements and fully supports the settlers. We’ll all eventually pay the price of what’s happening in Hebron,” Khenin said.
The two Knesset members called on the defense minister to exercise his authority and act immediately to evacuate the settlers.
RenovationsIn the meantime, the settlers are laboring industriously to renovate the building and outfit it with the necessary amenities. Sunday morning they began installing a network of pipes connecting the building to Kiryat Arba's waterworks.
“We’re carrying on as usual and preparing the house to be habitable and for the yeshiva that will be here. The building was bought at full price. We have all the documents showing that all this is legal, otherwise they would have already kicked us out,” right-wing activist Baruch Marzel said.
Local Palestinians set up a protest tent a few dozen meters from the building, and a squad of soldiers is stationed on the site to prevent any violent confrontation.