Arabs view Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount
Arabs view Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple MountNati Shohat/Flash 90

The first step in getting a building permit in every place in Israel is to show proof of property ownership. Naturally, you can’t get a permit to build on property that isn’t yours.

The legal method of proving property ownership in Israel is through the Land Registration Department, commonly known by the Arabic term “Tabu.” Anyone with claims to a property which isn’t registered under his name is allowed to go to a property regulation clerk in Tabu and apply to register the property under his name.

However, from documents obtained by Arutz Sheva, it appears that Arabs in east Jerusalem are able to prove property ownership in a way that circumvents the normal legal procedure.

According to the documents, a secret committee under the auspices of the Jerusalem municipality issues Arab residents of Jerusalem proof of ownership for the purposes of building - yet it remains unclear under what legal authority the committee does so.

The documents were discovered after head of the Israel Land Fund Arieh King submitted a complaint to police over Arab thefts of land from Jews. The Israel Land Fund represents Jews who claim that their property was stolen from them as a result of the activity of the aforementioned secret committee.

The Committee, whose representatives change from time to time, assesses the ties of the applicant to the concerned property and accordingly makes its decision, on whose basis the municipality issues a building permit. The danger in this method lies in the fact that too unprofessional an assessment can lead to the theft of property - with legal backing.

In the wake of the discovery, Arutz Sheva turned to the Jerusalem municipality with several questions: Who decided the representatives of the Committee? Which matters are the Committee eligible to deliberate upon? Who decided the bounds of the Committee’s authority and according to what laws was the authority granted? Does somebody in the Committee have prior experience in the subject of land regulation? Are the activities of the Committee known to the City Comptroller, and did she check the legality of the Committee’s activities?

The Municipality chose to answer the questions only partially. “As of now there are wide segments of the city without land regulation such that ownership cannot be registered with the Tabu. Therefore, in such cases, the City works in accordance with the instructions of the law, court decisions and instructions of the Justice Ministry. The City of Jerusalem turned many times to the Justice Ministry, under whose responsibility the regulation of land registration lies, requesting that it advance the process of regulating land registration within the City.”