Jerusalem24 – The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported today, that the General Custodian unit of the Israeli Ministry of Justice is promoting extensive plans to build neighborhoods and settlement complexes in occupied East Jerusalem.
According to the newspaper, among the plans that are being promoted, a plan for a new neighborhood in Sheikh Jarrah, and two neighborhoods adjacent to Beit Safafa, Beit Hanina and Sur Baher.
The newspaper obtained documents showing that the construction of these new neighborhoods involves the eviction of Palestinian tenants who have been living in properties managed by the “general custodian” for decades.
Last week, the newspaper revealed a plan to establish a new neighborhood near Beit Safafa, south of Jerusalem, called “Givat Hashkid.” It was later approved by the Israeli Local Planning and Building Committee. It includes 470 settlement units, a synagogue and the provision of other services.
The “general custodian” is considered responsible for the possession of any “Absentee Property.” That is property whose owner is considered unknown by the Israeli government based on a special law enacted in 1970. The custodian manages about 900 properties in Jerusalem, most of which are East of occupied Jerusalem.
The newspaper drew attention to an investigation it published three and a half years ago about how right-wing associations are cooperating extensively with the general custodian. As a result of that cooperation, lawsuits were filed to evict Palestinian families from these properties, with the help of attorney Avraham Segal, who represents settlement associations such as Elad, Ateret Cohanim and other right-wing organizations.
Today, the Israeli Supreme Court will hear an appeal filed by the Israeli human rights organization, Ir Amim, against the “general custodian” to disclose the procedures by which this unit deals with the real estate it owns in East Jerusalem.
From documents obtained by Haaretz, it appears that the general custodian examined the possibility of promoting building plans in 5 areas in East Jerusalem. Including the construction of a neighborhood known as “Umm Haroun.” Which will be built in the western part of Sheikh Jarrah, where 45 Palestinian families live.
Most of them are in properties managed by the custodian. With his help, right-wing organizations have been fighting legal battles to expel these families for years. So far, two families have been evacuated, and another family is scheduled to be evacuated by the end of the month.
According to the newspaper, the general custodian manages 33 plots of land out of 58 in the neighborhood, and the Israeli Land Authority confiscated 5 other plots.
Noting that the Jerusalem municipality’s master plan allows the demolition of old buildings and the construction of new ones in their place or expanding them to 4-storey buildings.
The Israeli newspaper said that this would mean establishing a neighborhood of hundreds of housing units in the heart of Sheikh Jarrah, noting that the Land Registry Department of the Israeli Ministry of Justice registered the neighborhood in the name of its Jewish claimants.
In the area of Beit Hanina, the general custodian examined the construction of dozens of housing units on an area of 6 dunums.
The custodian is also examining the possibility of establishing another housing complex that includes dozens of settlement units between Beit Safafa and the Talpiot industrial area next to the Sur Baher neighborhood, where he manages 3.3 dunams, and is making efforts to identify areas of an additional 2 dunams to be transferred to his custody.
The general custodian is also promoting another plan in the Damascus Gate area, specifically behind the shops where 10 settler families who settled in that area after being handed over properties there inherited by Jews from the British before 1948.
The Israeli Ministry of Justice responded to the report saying that, with the exception of examining the construction plan in Sheikh Jarrah, there are no other plans being promoted. As for the Givat Hashkid neighborhood plan, it is a planning measure aimed at improving the value of real estate.
The custodian claims that he is promoting planning procedures for construction in all areas with the cooperation of the owners of the land rights in areas like Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Bat Yam.