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Will Israelis finally be allowed to build on Hebron property?

Legal opinion agreeing Jewish residents can build in wholesale market now published.

27.8.19, 14:11
Nine months after then-Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman advocated construction of a Jewish housing development in Hebron, the legal opinion that prompted it has been published. The old wholesale market next to the Avraham Avinu neighborhood has been a vacant shell for years. Originally part of the Jewish community on land purchased in 1807, the area was turned into a vegetable market in the 1960s by the Jordanians. After the Six Day War of 1967, the Israeli government continued to lease the structures to the Arab-run Hebron municipality until the lease ran out in the 1990s.
 
Liberman said at the time he had a new legal opinion to facilitate building residential housing units for Israeli citizens at the site, which was drafted by Attorney General Advocate Itai Ophir and received the court's approval, Israel National News reported on Monday.
 
The Defense Ministry has released a paraphrasing of the legal document which states, "the [old] opinion relates to the interpretation that the entire complex has been rented to the Hebron municipality, and therefore the protected tenancy right extends to the entire complex, that which it is built and that which is non-built, from the depths of the earth all the way up to the heavens. And the [new] reasonable interpretation is that the right to protected tenancy is only in the buildings themselves and in their access ways."
 
This interpretation would allow residential units to be built on top of the existing structures, which have stood empty for the past decade.
 
"This is Jewish-owned land purchased over 200 years ago by the ancient Jewish community in Hebron and transferred by the community to the new Jewish community in Hebron," stated spokesman Noam Arnon.
 
Rabbi Haim Bajayo bought the land in 1807 as a representative of the Magen Avot organization. The Beit Yaakov synagogue was built on the property and used by the famous Rabbi Eliyahu Mani. That building along with the other Jewish structures were destroyed by the Jordanians.  
 
Aging members of the old community gave their blessing to the nascent post 1967 community to use the abandoned properties. Courts have upheld the current Jewish community as heirs to the old land deeds. Called a "kushan" in Arabic, these documents from the Ottoman era were signed by both Jewish and Arab community leaders in Hebron and have held up in modern courts.
 
"The area was occupied by the Jordanians, the Jordanian authorities leased buildings to the Hebron municipality who leased them to vendors who operated the market," Arnon explained. "The Jordanians haven't been here for a long time and most of these vendors aren't alive anymore, but the lawyers found legal ground and said the rentals were considered a 'protected tenancy'," he stated. Arnon added that housing is in dire need in the Jewish neighborhoods where there a much higher demand than supply for the thriving community. He contrasted the Israeli bureaucratic red tape with the Palestinian Authority side of the city which builds uninhibited in both the PA and Israeli sections, with funding from foreign governments.

Many of the Arab vendors were even compensated by the Israeli government in the 1990s after they moved their fruit and vegetables stalls to newer Arab areas of the city.
 
The news comes days after the announcement that the Beit HaMachpela building, another contested site, has cleared the legal hurdles. Jewish residents previously evicted have now been approved to occupy the property, which is located near the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
 
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