Kadima May Block Peretz Expulsion of Jews from Peace House

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller says most Kadima lawmakers intend to block the Defense Minister's order to expel Jews from Peace House in Hevron.

Hana Levi Julian ,

Kadima Knesset Member Otniel Schneller says most Kadima lawmakers intend to block Defense Minister Amir Peretz’s order to expel Jews from the Hevron Peace House.

Schneller said Friday morning in an interview on Voice of Israel government radio that most Kadima legislators, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "will have a different opinion" than Peretz on the matter.

"Everything was done according to the law,” said Schneller, and if Prime Minister Olmert is convinced that the building was legally purchased, the government will not support the Defense Minister.”

Peretz will probably have to coordinate plans for the expulsion with the Prime Minister in order to implement his order.

The Kadima platform, which is the basis for the coalition that includes the Labor party, calls for the development of the Jewish community of Hevron.

Peretz ordered the expulsion on Thursday using the left-wing groups’ strategy of claiming the residents did not receive authorization to live there, even if it was legally purchased.

Left-wing groups had appealed to the Defense Minister to enforce his seldom-used power to prohibit Jews from living in buildings in Judea and Samaria without the Ministry's permission.

The building was sold to the Jews by a Jordanian businessman two years ago for $700,000. The former owner has since been arrested and charged with selling property to a Jew, a capital offense under both Jordanian and Palestinian Authority law.

Scheller accused Peretz hours after the decision that he had ordered the expulsion in order to gain support in the Labor party prior to the leadership primaries set for late May. Peretz is hoping to retain his post as Chairman but is trailing in the polls.

Kadima Knesset faction leader Avigdor Itzhaki also expressed his support for the Jewish residents of Peace House in a visit Thursday afternoon with the leader of the opposition Likud Knesset faction Gidon Saar.

Both men explained that they visited the house in order to show support for the beleaguered Hevron Jewish community, which they commented “is forced to cope with many difficulties.”

Saar accused the Defense Minister of ignoring the strategic importance of the structure. Peace House is built on a rise which overlooks the road from Kiryat Arba where PA terrorists gunned down 12 IDF soldiers and local security volunteers four years ago. He also warned Peretz that he would fail in his bid to use the expulsion as a way of gaining popularity with the Labor party rank-and-file.

National Union Knesset Member Uri Ariel also warned Peretz Thursday night that he and other Knesset Members will stand with the Hevron Jews if he carries out the order.

Rabbis from the Save the Land of Israel Committee called on the Defense Minister to reconsider his decision, which they called an affront to Jewish heritage.

The Yesha Council of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria has also said it would fight the order.

IDF officials said they have not received an official schedule for the expulsion. The order now rests with legal advisers and might take weeks to implement, according to a source in the Defense Ministry.