1. Abu Rajab House (Beit HaMachpela)
Last Sunday, August 27, the State submitted its response to the High Court of Justice on the petition demanding to evacuate the settlers who took over the Abu Rajab House (Beit HaMachpela) in Hebron. In its response to the petition submitted by the Palestinian owners, the State indicated its intention to evacuate the settlers within one week.
A week later, on September 3, the settlers submitted their own petition to the High Court of Justice, demanding to halt the evacuation. The court gave the State one week to submit its response to the settlers’ petition and issued a temporary injunction to prevent the evacuation until the State’s response on September 10. According to media publications, the settlers’ petition includes a repetition of baseless arguments from previous legal proceedings, in which they try to argue that both the appeals committee’s decisions and the transaction permit they hold give them the right to reside in the property.
The State strongly rejected these arguments in its response to the petition filed by the Palestinian owners last week, and stated that the settlers are trespassers that need to be evacuated. The transaction permit held by the settlers does not prove ownership and its content states that “the permit does not constitute a license for construction or for using the land.” Rather, the permit is a part of a bureaucratic procedure allowing the settlers to submit an application to register the property under their name. Furthermore, the appeals committee, which allowed the settlers to return to the first registration committee with additional documents, stated that its decision “does not determine anything regarding the submissibility, originality credibility, righteousness or meaning of these documents.”
Peace Now: “The settlers’ petition is absolutely outrageous and its baseless arguments have been rejected again and again in previous legal proceedings. After having been granted an independent administration a few days ago, it is no wonder the Hebron settlers feel empowered to do as they wish, while ignoring the law and on the expense of Palestinians.”
2. Upgrade to the Hebron Settlers Status Through an Independent Administration
On August 3, the head of the Central Command, Major General Roni Numa, signed a military order establishing a municipal services administration for the Jewish settlers in Hebron. The military order formalizes the system of apartheid in the city and could potentially lead to new projects and budget transfers to the Hebron settlers.
Jurisdiction: No clear territorial jurisdiction is defined by the order. Rather, the order states that the administration has authority over “the settlers and the property owned or held by settlers in the H2 area.”
Representation: Administration members will be elected through an election process by the Hebron settlers and it will constitute their official representative body.
Authority: The administration will possess the following authorities:
Initiating and managing services for the Hebron settlers.
Charging fees from the settlers.
Handling order, cleanliness, and hazards related to settlers’ property. The administration can set rules only for settlers regarding these matters.
Regarding infrastructure hazards beyond the setters’ property which impact the settlers directly, the settlers will have to turn to the Hebron municipality. If the municipality will not repair those within a reasonable timeframe, the administration will be allowed to repair them after receiving approval from the Civil Administration.
Formalizing and normalizing the apartheid in Hebron. For years the settlers and the Israeli authorities in Hebron have been operating independently and separately in Hebron, but this was done informally. The order issued last week legally makes this separation official.
Decreasing the Hebron Municipality’s authority over the settlers’ neighborhoods. The military order deducts parts of the city from the authority of the Hebron municipality and establishes an independent administration for them. As stated above, this is not new but it has now become official.
Role transfers from the Civil Administration to the settlers. Throughout the years the Civil Administration, managed by the government, has been providing services to the Hebron settlers. From now on, the settlers will have self-rule, under the supervision of the Civil Administration. Unlike the Civil Administration, which is supposed to operate based on the public interest, the settlers have a political and ideological agenda, something which will affect their operation. It is highly likely that they will establish and run projects and sites in Hebron, while requesting high budgets from the government, in order to increase their presence in the city.
Violation of the spirit of the Hebron Protocol of 1997. Whether the establishment of the independent administration is a violation of the Hebron Protocol is a question of interpretation. It appears that there has been an effort to choose a model for the administration that will not contradict the Israeli commitments in the protocol directly. For instance, in terms of jurisdiction and independence. Nonetheless, it is clear that the establishment of the administration and the rest of Israel’s unilateral actions in Hebron violate the spirit of the agreement. The Hebron Protocol states that the Hebron municipality will be responsible for the entire city, including the settlers. For instance, clause 12(2) determines that “The Israeli side may request, through the DCL, that the Municipality carry out works regarding the roads or other infrastructure required for the well being of the Israelis in Area H-2. If the Israeli side offers to cover the costs of these works, the Palestinian side will ensure that these works are carried out as a top priority.” The military order states that the head of the administration will refer such cases to the Hebron municipality, but if not handled after a reasonable time period, they will be handled by the administration with the approval of the head of the Civil Administration (Clause 8 of the military order). Here too, the Civil Administration has handled such matters in the past, but the order formalizes such actions.