'They rob our land'

Knesset Interior Committee discusses if 'Mukhtar procedure' should continue to be used until East Jerusalem settlement completed.

Hezki Baruch,

Barkat in Interior Committee
Barkat in Interior Committee
Hezki Baruch

The Knesset Interior Committee headed by MK Yoav Kish (Likud) convened for a discussion on the "Mukhtar procedure" according to which Arabs receive building permits in East Jerusalem on land whose owners are not registered.

The "Mukhtar procedure", approved by the Jerusalem Municipality, has been opposed on grounds it would lead to an Arab takeover of land in the eastern part of the capital. The declaratory procedure allows Arabs to lay claim to land while testimonies could be fabricated with the intention of blocking Jewish land purchase.

"To my understanding, the procedure used by the Jerusalem municipality is legal," said MK Kish, adding that "in parallel to using the land registration process, which began at the end of the year, I'd like to submit a status report to the committee in six months. My concern is that in the meantime there's activity to steal state land," he said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who called for the hearing, said: "The procedure must be adapted to Justice Ministry guidelines, and we demand clear directives. The Justice Ministry must also accelerate the regulation of the land. The State must take responsibility for the Mukhtar procedure.

"In 2017, the government decided, following my appeal to the Justice Minister who responded to my request, to implement land settlement in East Jerusalem. Such an arrangement would render the problematic use of the Mukhtar procedure redundant, but things didn't progress. There's a freeze," Barkat warned.

Deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz said that "the Mukhtar procedure - and we're talking about a procedure that deals with submitting plans, as well as requests for a building permit - is designed to maintain a reasonable fabric for the Jewish and Arab population, mainly the Arabs. If the land isn't registered, and people want to close a balcony or add a floor on the roof, and the district committee says planning-wise it's possible, but there's no actual way to realize it, in the end life makes them do it illegally. The Mukhtar procedure addresses the need to enable a reasonable fabric of life, within the boundaries of planning and licensing. We want them to build safely.

"Therefore, in order to bring a difficult legal situation into a reasonable planning path, we must allow life to go on. The procedure is based on planning and building regulations, when there is a connection to land. So you can create a legal outline. The building permit doesn't create a proprietary connection to the land. It's true that a person who builds after receiving a building permit will be difficult to move even if it's proven later that the land isn't his, but the permit doesn't grant him a legal right of ownership. Over the years, attempts have been made to better and improve the procedure, which today determines that every request will also be transferred to the Custodian General and to the Custodian of Absentee Property.

"They have indications of lands before 1948. The idea is that wherever there's interface with someone holding land rights, when there's opposition from him, the procedure determines a stop and not a green light. The procedure is balanced. It checks all stakeholders. Especially in the villages, we want people who know and say that in places where the settlement process hasn't begun, they want someone to come and say: 'This family has lived here for decades'," Kaminitz added.

Shlomi Heisler, who is in charge of registration and land settlement in the Justice Ministry, said that "there's a tender at a record rate for various services. We have five blocks in the process of work, Beit Hanina, Tzur Baher, and Mount Scopus."

MK Leah Fadida (Zionist Union) claimed, "There's no freeze. There's a municipality decision to raise difficulties and questions. Says the Deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz that there's no order to freeze and as long as there's no new procedure, the old one exists. If that isn't populist, what's preventing you from continuing what you've been doing for 30 years?"

Regavim movement member Meir Deutsch made it clear that "the procedure is completely distorted, and the courts approved it retroactively, provided that the neighbors agree to what the Mukhtar says. The problem is that it was canceled, and there's no more need to prove that you paid taxes on the land."

Erez Kaminitz replied: "This is because the district committee reached the conclusion that if the signatures of neighbors are required, it creates another factor with a veto right. So now the neighbors have no right of veto, but if the district committee is impressed that there's a conflict, it sends the parties to court, just as is done in a shared home."

"I'm afraid it's a discussion of the style of Ahab and Isabel about the plundering of the last sheep," said Ashrat Maimon of the extreme Left Ir Amim. "There's no Palestinian here to talk about serious discrimination in planning and building."


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