Last Friday, the Justice Ministry abolished the "Mukhtar Protocol," an important move in favor of genuine property rights and one which will go a long way toward stopping illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem.
According to Regavim, the Mukhtar Protocol was "one of the most corrupt, discriminatory procedures enforced by the State of Israel. In a nutshell, this longstanding procedural practice, which was used to establish ownership and as the basis for construction permits and other legal processes, replaced the requirement for documented proof of ownership with the say-so of local village “experts.” In East Jerusalem, the testimony of al local village chief (mukhtar) sufficed, as opposed to the burden of proof – actual Tabu records, deeds, or other documentation with legal standing and verifiability – required everywhere else. This strange, antiquated procedure was an open invitation to widespread fraud, resulting in the violation of proprietary rights of both Jewish and Arab owners."
Regavim also notes that four years ago, Justice Ministry planned to merely revise the list of recognized mukhtars, resulting in the establishment of a coalition of organizations to fight those seeking to perpetuate this problematic procedure.
Regavim led a series of meetings with professionals in the Jerusalem Municipality responsible for land-use issues. The meetings were also attended by Jerusalem-focused Zionist organizations including Elad, Ateret Cohanim, HaTzedek, Keep Jerusalem and others. They also spearheaded a public awareness and protest campaign against this dangerous and harmful procedure that has resulted in the illegal transfer of land to Arabs with specious claims. Notable champions of this campaign were MK Orit Strock, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Aryeh King, and Jerusalem Assemblyman Yoni Yosef.
Their efforts ultimately met with success, and last Friday, the Mukhtar Protocol was "retired."
"We welcome this decision," said Yehudah Poah, director of Betsalmo. "East Jerusalem is no different than anywhere else in the State of Israel. Our sovereignty and the rule of law there should be 100%."
Attorney Boaz Arzi, Director of Regavim’s Legal Division, added: "The State of Israel should have conducted full regulation procedures for all properties in Jerusalem immediately upon the city’s reunification, and the foot-dragging has resulted in the loss of thousands of dunams of land to fraudulent claims and the erosion of governance. We congratulate the Ministry of Justice for its efforts to end this ongoing failure and cancel the dubious procedure, and hope that the process of land regulation and registration will be completed quickly and resolutely."
"Keep Jerusalem" also welcomed the decision: "Today, a significant step was made for the protection of the unity of Jerusalem and for Israeli sovereignty over its capital. We congratulate all of those who worked for this change, particularly the nationalist organizations, Minister Ayelet Shaked and Mayor Moshe Lion."
Attorney Eldad Rabinowitz of "BeTzedek" added: "We congratulate the Ministry of Justice for its decision to cancel the Mukhtar Protocol, which was an illegal procedure that resulted in large-scale land theft and undermined Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem. We expect the Jerusalem Municipality to uphold and enforce this decision and stop granting construction permits on the basis of the protocol that has now been discarded."