Minister vows to return evicted Jews to Hevron

Ofir Akunis visits Hevron houses where 200 Jews were evicted in January coalition crisis, notes 'the PA proved the purchase was legal.'

Ido Ben-Porat ,

Ofir Akunis at Cave of Machpelah
Ofir Akunis at Cave of Machpelah
Hevron Jewish community spokesperson

Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) on Monday visited Kiryat Arba and Hevron in Judea, where he prayed at the Cave of Machpelah and met with residents working to redeem houses and restore the ancient Jewish city that is currently mostly under Arab rule.

At Hevron's Peace House, the minister met with members of the NPO "Harchivi Makom Ohalech" who work to redeem houses, as well as members of the settlement movement Nachala. Kiryat Arba-Hevron regional council head Malachi Levinger accompanied him on the visit.

Akunis was given a detailed explanation of how the houses in Hevron are purchased from Arab sellers, and became acquainted with the details of the process.

"There is nothing new under the sun," he said, quoting Ecclesiastes. "What happened today in Hevron in terms of purchasing the homes is a direct continuation of what individuals and families did in the last several dozen years."

"After all the Rokeach family bought with its own money many dunams of land in Tel Aviv. On that land the neighborhoods of northern Tel Aviv stand today."

The minister was shown how the purchases are conducted in a completely legal fashion, and he commented, "there is and need not be any prevention of Jews being able to take control of the assets they purchased according to law."

"The PA proved the purchase was legal"

Akunis also visited two homes that sparked a coalition crisis in January, when the government evicted 200 Jews who took possession of the two buildings in Hevron that had been legally purchased from an Arab seller.

The houses, termed Beit Rachel and Beit Leah, are located opposite the parking lot of the Cave of Machpelah, where the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs other than Rachel are buried.

"The Palestinian Authority's standing the seller of houses in Hevron on trial is the best proof to the validity of the purchase by the Jews," said the minister, cutting through Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's (Likud) excuses for the eviction claiming that the purchase may not be legal.

"I saw with my own eyes the statement of claim in which the Arabs precisely note the house and lot that were sold," he added.

At the time of the eviction, Deputy Regional Development Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud), Likud MK Oren Hazan and Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich threatened to vote against the coalition, but they broke their promise and withdrew the threat. The Jewish Home Forum in Samaria showed frustration with their own party, criticizing Jewish Home chairperson Naftali Bennett for not acting against the eviction.

Akunis, who arrived under heavy guard, smiled when he noticed how close the two houses are to the Cave of Machpelah.

"I could have gone by foot, it's so close," he told his guards.

During a lunch at Peace House, the minister heard about the difficulties imposed on those seeking to purchase homes in Hevron by the IDF Civil Administration which enjoys the full backing of Ya'alon.

"The matter of settling the land is very close to my heart and I will do what I can in order to ensure that the populating of the houses that were purchased according to the law will take place soon," he vowed.

"I will bring what I heard and saw here today before the Prime Minister and I will demand the entry of the families into the houses," he added.