The Executive Arm of the Settler Organizations

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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The Dome of the Rock is seen from the Palestinian village of Abu Dis in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
The Dome of the Rock is seen from the Palestinian village of Abu Dis in the Israeli-occupied West BankCredit: EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The State of Israel and all of its entities have been investing much effort to encourage Jews to settle in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. One of the most creative and unrestricted agencies in this combined effort has been the Administrator General department at the Justice Ministry. The Administrator General, which is responsible for managing the property and funds of individuals whose identity is unknown as well as those who are unable to manage their assets themselves, has become an executive arm of the settler organizations.

Since the 1980s, the Administrator General has been assisting the settlers in seizing homes in Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere. In 2018, Haaretz revealed that the East Jerusalem portfolio there was being managed by Hananel Gurfinkel, a right-wing activist who also established a nonprofit organization to increase the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. At his direction, the Administrator General’s office has stepped up efforts to evict Palestinian families and to assist the settler organizations. Last week, it was revealed that the Administrator General has been working to establish Givat Hashaked, a new neighborhood with 470 housing units, next to Beit Safafa in Jerusalem.

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The Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa has a severe housing shortage as well as a shortage of land for development. Nevertheless, Givat Hashaked is slated to be a Jewish neighborhood “cut off from existing neighborhoods,” as the planning documents put it. On Monday, Nir Hasson disclosed in Haaretz that in addition to Givat Hashaked, the Administrator General is promoting construction of five housing complexes for Jews within Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem or adjacent to them. Two of them are in areas of friction in East Jerusalem – Sheikh Jarrah and next to the Damascus Gate. The others are planned for Beit Hanina, Sur Baher and another complex in Beit Safafa – all of which are crowded Palestinian neighborhoods that desperately need space for development and new housing.

In Sheikh Jarrah, the plan also includes the eviction of the Palestinian families who have been living there for decades. Such development activity is highly unusual in the context of the operations of the Administrator General in the other regions of the country, and it’s in addition to the other major assistance that the department has been providing to the organizations working to increase the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem. These activities are based on a discriminatory law that only permits Jews to demand the return of their property abandoned in 1948.

The primary aim of the settlement movement in East Jerusalem is to head off any prospect of a future diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians. And in the meantime, the settlements serve as an additional tool to oppress and humiliate the Palestinian residents of the city. They harm the fabric of relations between the Palestinian residents and the state, exacerbate tensions and contribute to an increase in the level of violence.

The Administrator General must stop promoting Jewish construction in East Jerusalem and consider how the property that it manages can be used for proper planning and to ease the lives of the city’s Palestinian residents. And Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar must instruct the Administrator General department to focus on the powers that were conferred upon it by law and not serve as an arm of the settler organizations.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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