A disputed building in Hebron was legally purchased by settlers and there is no reason to prevent them from living in it, a military appeals committee ruled on Monday, possibly paving the way for Jews to move back into the Beit Hamachpela structure.
The committee rejected a claim by the Civil Administration and the Defense Ministry that there were irregularities in the paperwork behind the purchase and ordered the state to cover the settlers’ legal fees for the case.
Although the decision constitutes a moral victory for the settlers, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will have the final word as to whether or not they can actually move back into the building.
Beit Hamachpela hit the headlines in late March 2012 after settlers made a clandestine move into the building, which is next to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The 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 the tinderbox atmosphere of Hebron, where Jewish settlers live in the midst of an huge Palestinian majority, the incident drew the attention of the highest political echelons, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who held meetings with government officials about the matter, and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who visited the house in a show of support.
Although Netanyahu tried to broker a stay of a few weeks for the eviction, Border Police forcibly removed the settlers days after they moved in, on April 4.