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Land registration as a tool for land-grab: The case of Jerusalem

Jerusalem24 – The Israeli Ministry of Justice started implementing last week the second phase of a project aiming to register ownership of lands adjacent to Al-Aqsa Mosque under the name of Jewish Israelis.

The registry and settlement of lands adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque began in 2021 with the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

The Ministry of Justice is now targeting areas that include lands slated for an archeological park project.

A decision by the Israeli government announced in 2018 allocated a budget of $15.5 million to what it said was an effort to reduce so-called “gaps and improve the quality of life for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.” The project aimed to register around 50% of the lands in East Jerusalem by the end of 2021, and in a second phase, finish registering and settling leftover lands by 2025.

Ayelet Shaked, the then-Minister of Justice, claimed the project would facilitate building for citizens and provide them with “better life options.”

But according to Jerusalem researcher Hanadi al-Qawasmi, the project aims to strengthen the occupation’s control over more Palestinian lands in the city – especially since the registration of lands in East Jerusalem in the Land Registry (Tabu) stopped after the Israeli occupation of the city in 1967.

Specialists estimate that only 5% to 10% of the land has been settled and registered in the Tabu, leaving between 90% and 95% to qualify for registration under the current project.

This registration expansion also targets lands supported by the Palestinian and Jordanian Waqf, and is expected to provoke protests against the ongoing Judaization of the old city.

Jerusalem’s land registration officer, David Rotenberg, has initiated registration procedures for several sections in Jerusalem (areas to be given priority for registration) over the past two years following the government announcement in 2018.

The measure was widely opposed by human rights associations because it targets land either owned by Jewish settlers, or by absentee property and land owners, making it more difficult for Palestinians to fight the registration of land under Jewish Israeli names.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the registration process in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is almost complete, with “almost all the land […] registered in the name of Jewish owners.”

The operation also targeted areas around the French Hill in Jerusalem, where a new settlement neighborhood called “Gavat Hashakid” is slated for construction, as well as the area between the settlement of Har Homa and the town of Tyre Baher near the Haredi settlement of Har Shlomo, which is registered to the “custodian of absentee property.”

Another area where a new settlement neighborhood is to be set up in the settlement of Atarot, north of the occupied city of Jerusalem, also registered to the “custodian of absentee property.”

 

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