Settlers must wait to occupy Hebron house
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Settlers must wait to occupy Hebron house

State now says Netanyahu was only giving verbal support, not an order, when he declared Jews will move into Beit Hamachpela

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The controversial Beit Hamachpela in Hebron (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The controversial Beit Hamachpela in Hebron (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was only giving his supportive opinion and not actually declaring real action when he said settlers will move into a controversial house in Hebron in reaction to the slaying of an IDF soldier, the state told the High Court on Tuesday.

In response to an appeal by local Palestinians against Jewish occupation of the Beit Hamachpela building, the state said no decision had been made on when Jews would be permitted to move in to the site.

The state explained that Netanyahu was only “expressing support for populating the building after the completion of the appropriate procedures.”

In the wake of the killing of an IDF soldier by a Palestinian sniper in Hebron on Sunday night, Netanyahu promised the immediate resettlement of Beit Hamachpela, a building near the West Bank city’s Tomb of Patriarchs which was previously boarded up by order of the Defense Ministry.

“Those who try to uproot us from Hebron, the city of our forefathers, will only achieve the opposite,” said Netanyahu in a statement following the death of Sgt. Gal Gabriel Kobi, 20, who was shot in the neck that evening at an IDF checkpoint near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. “We will continue to fight terrorism with one hand, and strengthen settlements with the other.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 17, 2013. (photo credit: Emil Salman/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 17, 2013. (photo credit: Emil Salman/FLASH90)

The state made it clear that no one would actually be allowed into the building until the site was properly registered with its Jewish owners. In addition, an approval given by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday for Jews to move back into the building was also dependent on completion of all the formal paperwork, the state said.

On Tuesday afternoon Israeli settlers pitched a sukkah outside the house in a new claim to ownership.

The issue first hit the headlines in late March 2012 after settlers made a clandestine move into the building.

At the time settlers produced paperwork showing that the building was purchased from local Palestinians, but the Civil Administration and the Defense Ministry demanded the eviction of the occupants. In July, a military appeals committee ruled that the disputed building was indeed legally purchased and there was no reason to prevent the Israelis from living in it.

Although the decision constituted a moral victory for the settlers, Ya’alon still has the final word as to whether or not they can actually move back into the building. Ya’alon convened a meeting late Monday afternoon to look into the legal ramifications of resettling the building in the coming weeks.

Several hundred settlers live in the tense city of 170,000 Palestinians.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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