Ninety five dunams (23.4 acres) of land next to the Israeli town of Alfei Menashe will be handed over to the descendants of three Arabs who fled Israel in 1967, after a Tel Aviv court ruled that the land was acquired by its ostensible owner based on false documents.
The land, in lands liberated after the 1967 Six Day War, were slated for development. Alfei Menashe is just a few kilometers from Kfar Sava and Hod Hasharon in central Israel, areas where there is a great deal of demand for new housing. In addition, the land is located adjacent to a projected road that would connect directly to Road Six, which would enhance the value of the land significantly.
The three original owners of the land were Arabs who left Samaria in the wake of the Six Day War, and went to live in Jordan. The land was ruled as abandoned, but was occupied by several Bedouin families. An Israeli company called GRA in 2001 purchased the land via an Arab agent, with the Bedouin agreeing to vacate the land. The agent produced notarized documents signed by the original three owners, with GRA arguing that the deal was legitimate on either account – as a purchase from the original owners, or as a legitimate acquisition of abandoned lands.
However, the court ruled, the documents were clearly forged. Attorneys for the descendants of the Arab owners presented evidence that the owners had died before the date on the bill of sale. The fact that the descendants of the owners are now claiming the land as theirs, combined with the fact of the forged documents, was enough to nullify the sale. The court ordered that ownership revert to the descendants of the original owners.
GRA sold the land to an Israeli developer, called Harei Bracha, in 2006. Harei Bracha argued that it should be considered the legitimate owner, since it purchased the land in a straight deal. However, the court said, it suspected that Harei Bracha, as well as GRA, were aware that the documents were forged; GRA sought a buyer for the land almost immediately, in order to “dump” an asset that would eventually be the subject of a court case, while Harei Bracha may not have paid all, or even any, of the $600,000 it was supposed to pay for the land. “This may even be a money laundering case,” the court said.
The two Israeli companies were ordered to pay court costs of NIS 60,000. Ownership of the land has reverted to the descendants of the original Arab owners, all residents of Jordan.