The disputed property
Photo: Sameh Shahin

High Court orders disputed house in Hebron vacated

Judges say families residing on disputed property in West Bank city must move out within 72 hours; name State temporary custodian of building pending ruling on title rights. Yesha Council: Government, court collaborating against settlers

The High Court of Justice denied a petition filed by the Jewish community in the West Bank city of Hebron, against the State's decision to vacate the residents of the disputed house in the city.


The dispute goes back to March of 2007, when 20 Jewish families moved into a Hebron house, claiming to have bought it from its Palestinian owner. The Palestinian denied the sale, and has maintained that the house was illegally seized.


The matter has been heard before the court several times. In a hearing in late October, the petitioners presented the court with an audio tape on which the Palestinian is heard admitting he had sold the house to a realtor.


Nevertheless, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish and the honorable Ayala Procacciathe and Salim Jubran ordered that the residents must vacate the premises within three days; and further ordered that as per the State's request, the State will be named temporary custodian of the property, pending a ruling on the proprietary rights. 


Should the residents fail to leave the house on their own accord, the court warned it would issue a squatters' eviction notice against them.


The court also ordered the petitioners, Tal Construction and Investment of Karnei Shomron and the Society for the Renewal of the Jewish Community in Hebron, to pay NIS 15,000 ($3,800) in court fees.


Until the question of proprietary rights is determined, noted the court, the statute does not permit any one side to take possession of the property without the owner's consent. In order to make sure neither side tries to defy the court order, the judges ordered the house doors be sealed by the army.


'Court decision racist'

The High Court ruling sparked a row in the political establishment. The Yesha Council said in a statement that "once again the State Prosecutor's Office and the High Court have cooperated with a government hostile to settlement and have come up with an outrageous and unjust verdict."


The statement added, "Once again they were not let the facts confuse them. The settlers had proven ownership of the property beyond any doubt, yet the government, State Prosecutor's Office and the High Court have collaborated to remove them from the house.


"We demand that the prime minister and defense minister leave things be until a meeting with the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron."


Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Jewish settlement in Hebron, called the High Court's decision "cearly racist and anti-Jewish. It is obvious that if the case was about anything else but Jews buying a house in Hebron, the residents would have been able to stay in the house.


"The High Court judges have proven once more that their political inclination is leaning towards the far left," he added.


Shas Chairman Eli Yishai also condemned the ruling, calling it "severe and outrageous".


"This kind of decision can’t be made without first determining who the property owner is," he said, lamenting the fact that "the court is turning into a tool for political officials".


Knesset Member Gilad Erdan (Likud) said that "the attorney general and High Court's unwillingness to examine the clear evidence for the legitimate purchase of the building is regretful and creates a harsh feeling of injustice and damage to the public's trust in the legal system."


Extreme right-wing activist Itamar Ben Gvir criticized the ruling, saying that "once more, the High Court is forcing settlers and security forces into an Amona-style clash.


"The presiding judges will be held responsible. This is an open and shut case, the house was bought and paid for legally."


Efrat Weiss, Amnon Meranda and Roni Sofer contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 11.16.08, 12:00
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