The Jewish community in Hebron is to evacuate the city’s Beit Ezra building on Tuesday after reaching the deadline set by the Supreme Court for the state to remove them.
The Jewish community in Hebron decided to abandon the home quietly even though the government failed to live up to its side of a compromise agreement with the settlers.
Beit Ezra is located in Hebron’s Old City and is named after the Ezra family that lived there until war broke out in 1947 after the approval of the UN partition plan. Like all Jewish properties in Hebron, following the war the home fell into the care of the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property.
During the 1960s, as part of the creation of Hebron’s wholesale market, the building was turned into shops. In 1967, the Israeli government took the place of the Jordanian one in administering the properties.
With the breakout of the second intifada in 2001, the shops in the building were closed by military order. Nevertheless, the army recognized the storeowners as protected tenants and their rights to the property were maintained.
In 2007, families from the Jewish settlement in Hebron entered the stores in the building and transformed them into part of the Avraham Avinu settlement in the city. The Israel Defense Forces sought to eject the families from the building; however, the families appealed the decision to the military appeals committee. The committee criticized the Custodian of Enemy Property for not properly taking care of the building, but also instructed the IDF to remove the squatters.
In 2010, Peace Now together with the store owners petitioned the High Court of Justice to eject the squatters.
After a long period of litigation, the Jewish community in Hebron and the government found a compromise solution by which the squatters would leave the building and the government would examine the possibility of allotting the stores in the building to the Jewish community in Hebron. Last December, the High Court justices, led by Esther Hayut, quashed the appeal and wrote, "We have taken note that the possibility of allotting the stores that are the object of the appeal for use by the Jewish community in Hebron was examined, and that a decision on this matter will be reached before the implementation date of the evacuation order."
In recent days it became clear that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein was dragging his feet in reaching a decision on the matter, as he often does on legal topics related to Judea and Samaria. The principle legal difficulty is the status of the Palestinian merchants as protected tenants, which makes it difficult to transfer the property to settlers. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon tried to push forward the decision, but without any results yet. The settlers in Hebron were uncertain about how to proceed, but eventually decided that despite the attorney general not yet having reached a decision on the matter, the property would be abandoned.
"This is another black mark added to the injustices done to the Jewish community in Hebron," said Noam Arnon, spokesperson for the Jewish community in Hebron, told Haaretz. "We will do our part with a heavy heart. Those who were supposed to barricade themselves with us in Beit Ezra are now in the government, yet this is the situation."