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Friday, April 06, 2012

Israeli government and PLO agree: Jews cannot buy property in Hebron (updated)

From AFP:
A Palestinian man suspected of mediating in the contested sale of a house in Hebron to Jewish settlers has been detained, Palestinian security sources told AFP on Thursday.

Israeli security forces on Wednesday evicted a group of settlers from a house in the West Bank city, a day after they were ordered to leave the property.

Six settler families had moved into the property a week ago, claiming they had legally purchased one floor of the building from its Palestinian owners.

Palestinian sources in Hebron said the property belonged to the Abu Rajab family, some of whom live on the first floor of the building, and that it was possible that a member of the family had sold the second floor of the house.

But the buyer was not settlers, rather a Palestinian man originally from the Gaza Strip, who is suspected of acting as a middle-man for Jewish groups involved in buying Palestinian assets, the Palestinian security sources said.

This go-between, who worked for Palestinian national security in Ramallah before retiring, was detained earlier this week by Palestinian security forces, and was being held in Ramallah, the sources said.

They added that the member of the Abu Rajab family believed to have sold the asset to the middle-man had "escaped to Israel."
The Jewish Press has more detail:
At a press conference outside Machpelah House which had been evacuated Wednesday in Hebron, Shlomo Levinger and attorney Doron Nir-Tzvi told reporters that the purchase of Machpelah House had been in the making for some three years. The tenants had planned to patiently await government approval for their purchase of the house from a local Arab.

But the arrest of several Arabs by the Palestinian Authority on suspicion of selling real estate to the Jewish group – a crime which could be punished with death – changed the plan, and the group decided to move in despite the murky prospects of staying.

Knowing full well how hard it would be to establish residency in a newly purchased house—facing a hostile Israeli civil authority whose directive is to strictly limit the growth of the city’s Jewish community, the group of buyers was moving slowly and quietly, through intermediaries and straw men, forever remaining below the radar for three years.

At the press conference, Levinger said they paid four times the value of the house, which has been estimated at around $250 thousand. Earlier in the day, when the Jewish Press asked Levinger to confirm a rumor that they paid half a million dollars for the house, he said, “I wish it would have been that amount.”

The money for the purchase came from donations of Jews from Israel and abroad. “Every week we would travel to meetings in private homes, collecting one shekel after another,” Levinger said. “There were times when we came back with only a few single shekels, other times we’d pick up thousands. We spent days and nights collecting this money, faithfully and lovingly.

“Once the money had been collected, we embarked on the purchase deal. It was a Sysiphian labor. We knew that the Attorney General’s office would be looking everywhere for possible holes in the deal.”

According to Doron Nir-Tzvi, in Judea and Samaria, real estate deals are conducted in an anachronistic fashion, whereby a deal must first be completed before the buyers are permitted to apply for government approval (Heter Iskah). Therefore, once every last T was crossed and I dotted, the buyers planned to wait patiently for their deal to go through.

Sources in the Civil Administration were telling them they couldn’t find faults with the deal, that despite themselves they would end up having to approve it.

But then the PA arrested both straw men who had been carrying out different part of the bargain, followed by the jailing of their family members as well.

At this point, Levinger et al felt that their only recourse was to take possession of the property, or risk losing the deal altogether.

Both Levinger and Nir-Tzvi expressed concern for the jailed Palestinians. Levinger told the Jewish Press earlier that he was urging the Israeli government to demand their release of the Palestinian Authority.
It looks like no one is disputing that a sale occurred and it was legal. The Jews in Hebron say they have full documentation and video of the transaction.

But there are places in the world that Jews are not allowed to buy real estate because they are Jews. For example, Jordan, Saudi Arabia - and the ancient Jewish holy city of Hebron.

UPDATE: From My Right Word's Yisrael Medad in the comments:
I'm going to be an apikores here (while opposing the policy, of course) but to be fair. There is a right to purchase property and there is the right (and privilege) to reside in that property. As far as I know, what the GOI has done, deplorable, yes, is to act to prevent Jews from dwelling in the house that was purchased. The house is in H2. In fact, in last Friday's Haaretz, May 29, in other words 6 full days before the eviction, it was made clear in print that a special permission needed to be obtained from the Defense Ministry. In other words, what Haaretz and Peace Now knew, Shlomo Levinger knew.