Police probing rightist MK over fake West Bank outpost deal
Yisrael Beiteinu MK, settler leaders allegedly forged land registry documents to set up outpost.
Police are investigating suspicions of document fraud involving the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), secretary general of the Amana settlement housing group, Ze'ev "Zambish" Hever, and prominent settlement leader Yoel Tzur.
Rotem appears in the suspected documents as an attorney, and police said that while they are aware of Rotem's alleged involvement in the affair, he has not been questioned yet.
The investigation centers on land in the outpost of Jabal Artis ("Pisgat Yaakov"), located in the municipal borders of the settlement of Beit El.
The outpost was set up in February 2001 on privately owned land, and today is home to several dozens families, some in trailers and some in permanent structures.
About a year ago, the land's registered owner, Hirbi Mustafa, filed a complaint on trespassing against the settlers. Mustafa and another man registered as the land owner also appealed to the Supreme Court,with the assistance of non-profit organization Yesh Din, requesting an injunction prohibiting occupation of the buildings.
The appeal listed the appellees as the defense minister, the Civil Administration, the local council of Beit El and the "Company for development of the Yeshiva Center of Beit El A and Beit El B, Ltd."
The company's response to the appeal stated that all buildings listed have already been occupied, so the very request was theoretical. The company also claimed the state participated in sponsoring the infrastructure allowing the construction of the outpost.
The court was also presented with a document purported to be a sale agreement of the land concerned. The document was notarized by Jerusalem lawyer Yitshak Salomon, and was dated June 2000.
It lists a person by the name of Ibrahim Judah Mustafa and the Amana settlement group as parties, and contains a statement by Mustafa asserting he was the legal owner of the land. Clause 6 of the agreement says that "to ensure the fulfillment of the commitment acknowledged in this contract, the seller will grant irrevocable power of attorney to David Rotem, to carry out in his name and in his place any activity to fulfill his commitments according to the contract."
However, the land registry documents for this plot of land make no mention of any person named Ibrahim Judah Mustafa, and bears no reference to the transaction alleged in the contract.
Yaron Kosteliz, who represents the Beit El Yeshiva Center, said the sale documents were authentic, but added the seller may have deceived the Amana group and did not really own the land. Kosteliz also said the reason the sale was not entered in the land registry was fear for the seller's life.
"Recently, this threat was removed, and therefore, as was stated to the Supreme Court, we intended to request the land to be registered in our name in the coming weeks."
Rotem, a resident of Efrat in Gush Etzion and a father of five, is the current chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and sits on the Judicial Appointments Committee. Prior to his election to the Knesset earlier this year, Rotem has owned a law firm in Jerusalem and served as legal adviser to the Yesha settlers council, Amana, and several local councils.
He had also represented several settler leaders accused of killing Palestinians, including some members of the Jewish underground of the 1980s, Rabbi Moshe Levinger and chairman of the Mateh Binyamin regional council Pinchas Wallerstein.
Speaking to Haaretz, Rotem said he had no knowledge of the alleged transaction, and claimed Amana listed him as an attorney without informing him, as he worked for the movement at the time. The MK said he had never seen the documents before and had no part in formulating the deal.
"I made every effort not to be involved in those deals, and I wasn't involved in this on, I'm quite sure ... since I was the permanent lawyer for Amana, they may have told the seller, 'David Rotem is our lawyer, so would you please list him as attorney.' No action was requested of me in this deal, so they didn't even have to show me the document."
When asked whether naming a lawyer as attorney in documents of which he had no knowledge was a regular procedure at Amana, Rotem said it was "perfectly legitimate and regular for a body that has a permanent lawyer to say, put down my lawyer as the attorney, without necessarily letting the lawyer know."
"I wasn't questioned by the police and I assume I won't be questioned, either," Rotem said. "They will check whether the document is real or not. They'll go to Mr. Salomon, and tell him 'someone claims the documents are faked, would you please say how you signed those when the [registered owner of the land] says he doesn't know who you are and has never met you'."
Salomon would not reply to Haaretz questions, citing lawyer-client confidentiality.
Hever did not respond to requests for comment. Kosteliz, who responded on behalf of Tzur, said: "I believe and hope the ownership issue will become clear in the course of the police investigation. It goes without saying the Beit El Yeshiva center will act in accordance to the results of the investigation."