The state is likely to side with the opinion of State Attorney Yehuda Weinstein and his former assistant Mike Blass, and advocate for the eviction of Jewish residents of Beit Ezra in Hevron – but Likud MKs fear that by doing so, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to lose as many as three seats for the Likud in the upcoming elections. As a result, senior Likud ministers and MKs a have been heavily pressuring Netanyahu to reject the stance taken by Weinstein and Blass.
Beit Ezra is a Jewish owned building in Hevron that was abandoned in 1947 when Jews were forced from the city, but was restored to Jewish ownership following the 1967 Six Day War. A court has issued a verdict favorable to the Jewish families living in the property, but the families’ rights to the building have been challenged by a Peace Now lawsuit calling for their eviction.
State attorneys, rather than challenging Peace Now’s claims, plan to support the group’s demand to oust Israeli families from the property. But informal polls taken by MKs on the right indicate that a further Netanyahu “capitulation” to leftist interests will harm the party, reducing support for the Likud enough to cut three seats from its expected total in the next Knesset.
Current polls show the joint list of Likud and Yisrael Beytenu receiving between 35 and 40 seats in the next Knesset.
Beit Ezra was originally owned by Jews, who lived in the structure until the Jordanians occupied Hevron after the War of Independence in 1948. The Jordanian administration granted several Arab families a lease on the property on the basis of its being an “abandoned property.”
After Israel liberated Hevron, the owners of the property began the process of reclaiming their property. In 2001 the Arab tenants were thrown out of the building, but the property was still not returned to its rightful owners, the Ezra family. After a court put their request on hold, the family allowed several Jewish families from Hevron to move into the building. It is those residents that are set to be evicted.
The state is now being expected to weigh in on the eviction lawsuit, and on the position of the State Attorney, as well as the Civil Administration, that residents should be removed. The state's request to postpone providing its position to the court until after the elections has been rejected. Now, MKs and Minister fear that the voters who disagree with the idea of evicting Jews from their homes will speak up, and punish the Likud.
Netanyahu is said to be considering the matter carefully.