A laconic announcement by the land-ownership registration authorities in Jerusalem conceals another means of discriminating against the residents of East Jerusalem, “Judaizing” the Palestinian neighborhoods and creating a political and security threat.
In 2018, the state approved a five-year plan to reduce social gaps in Jerusalem – “to create a better future for the residents” of East Jerusalem, as the government PR film promised. Under pressure from then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, her ministry received funding for a project to register land ownership in the city’s eastern part. (Since 1967, the government ceased registering land ownership in East Jerusalem, thus contributing to planning chaos and a housing crisis there.)
Since the project’s launch, questions have been raised about parcels of land for which a registration process had begun. In many cases, these were areas where settler organizations or the state had an interest: In Sheikh Jarrah, at the Atarot airport, in the planned Jewish neighborhood Givat Hashaked and elsewhere.
Thus, with particular cynicism, the Justice Ministry used the budget intended to improve the situation of the Palestinian residents of the capital to accelerate the “Judaization” of the eastern part of the city. If anyone hoped that the “government of change” would stop the process, they were wrong. During the tenure of Gideon Sa’ar as justice minister the situation only grew worse. Three weeks ago, things advanced further when the official in charge of land registration published a plan to begin to register land ownership in the Ophel Archaeological Park, adjacent to the wall of the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Not only is this the most sensitive piece of land in Jerusalem – the Palestinians and the Jordanian Waqf Islamic trust in any case are convinced that Israel wants to use this area to damage their status on the Temple Mount – this is an area where clearly no Palestinian could register ownership. Those who could benefit from it, again, are the entities active in tourism and archaeology at the site, first and foremost Elad, which recently received more government funding to excavate a channel that will reach the Ophel park.
The residents of East Jerusalem have the right to land registration, but in a way that allows them to legally build and enjoy their property, and not as it is being done now. The justice minister must make clear to the officials in his ministry that the goal of registration is to improve the lives of East Jerusalemites, not to serve as another tool for the settlers to take over land.
- Why so few Palestinians from Jerusalem have Israeli citizenship
- The latest buzz in East Jerusalem is sticky and sweet
- Mapping Out the Rapid Judaization of East Jerusalem
If Yair Lapid enters the Prime Minister’s Office this week, the caretaker government he leads would do well to order that the arrangement and the transfer of budgets in the area of the Temple Mount be frozen, and act to calm things down instead of creating new problems that will increase tensions.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.