Nadav Shragai
November 18, 2008 - 8:00pm

"The state of Israel has become the enemy of the people and the land of Israel," settler rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe said Tuesday during an emergency meeting on the state's plan to evacuate a house in Hebron whose ownership has been at the center of a bitter dispute for over a year.

The four-story building became a flash point for tensions when settlers moved in early last year after claiming to have purchased it from a Palestinian. But the Palestinian denies the claim and Israeli authorities have not recognized the sale as legal.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday said the settlers will be evacuated from the building, but that defense officials will sit down with them first to try to persuade them to leave voluntarily.

The Supreme Court has given the settlers until noon Wednesday to leave the house. They say they aren't budging. The court says if the settlers do not leave willingly they will be evicted within 30 days.

The court ruled that the settlers must turn the house over to the state until a different court decides who the legal owner is.

"Anyone who tries to raise a hand at the peace house in Hebron will long for Amona, and will find that Amona was nothing," MK Aryeh Eldad of the National Union- National Religious Party said, referring to the violent riots during the 2005 disengagement when Israeli authorities evacuated the Gush Katif settlement of Amona.

Some 1,000 Kiryat Arba residents attended the emergency meeting Tuesday, held at a local youth center, after the High Court on Sunday gave settlers three days to voluntarily vacate the house or force will be used to evacuate them.

Immediately following the meeting, participants accompanied four new families into what has been called by some the "house of contention."

Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, the head of the Nir yeshiva in Kiryat Arba, responded to rabbi Wolpe's remarks, saying "the state of Israel is not the enemy of the people of Israel. She belongs to us, to every last Jew. Stop this nonsense. We are fighting against those who want to enforce lies and perversions of justice, those who have disconnected themselves from Judaism and Zionism and the land of Israel, against those who have ceased to believe in the natural justice that Israel belongs to the Jewish people."

During the meeting, several attendants spoke out against the High Court. Orit Strock, one of the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, compared the High Court ruling to the laws of Sodom, saying "they bent everything that was bendable and completely ignored the fact that the seller of the house faces death threats, as if it is a given."

MK Uri Ariel (National Union-National Religious Party) said that the court's ruling was political and biased, saying "we will be there, I will be there with my fellow MKs. We will protect this house the way any man protects his home. There is no need for violence, but if anyone hits us, we will protect ourselves."

The Israel Defense Forces were gearing up to forcibly evacuate the house on Tuesday, presuming its residents continue ignoring a court order to vacate the premises. The deadline expires at noon Wednesday.


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