One argument for Jewish settlement of East Jerusalem that I hear quite often is based on a principle of civil rights: Jews should be able to build their homes in East Jerusalem because Palestinians are able to build theirs in West Jerusalem. To reserve East Jerusalem solely for its Arab residents would be discriminatory against Jews, right? Actually, wrong.
Take a look for instance, how my mayor, Barkat, is trying to sell this excuse, when the anchor made some homework:
Before I explain, let me say that even if it was true that Palestinians could buy properties in West Jerusalem, still, it would be against the Israeli interest to continue to settle in East Jerusalem. In order to get to a two states solution we will have to compromise in Jerusalem so that the Israeli neighborhoods will be part of Israel’s capital, and the Palestinian neighborhoods will be part of the Palestinian capital. If we continue the construction for Israelis in East Jerusalem – we might end up without a possibility to make a compromise in Jerusalem, and that would lead to a bi-national state.
The truth is that West Jerusalem is not automatically opened to Palestinian ownership. Why?
A. East Jerusalem’s Arab residents are not citizens of Israel. They are permanent residents of Israel, has the right to live, work, pay taxes and receive services from the State of Israel, and even to vote for the Jerusalem municipality, but they cannot vote for the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) and do not hold Israeli passports.
B. Most of the Lands in West Jerusalem and in Israel are “State Land” and are administered by the Israel Land Authority (the ILA).
C. According to the official procedures of the ILA, until about tow years ago anyone who wanted to buy or lease land from the state had to be either a citizen of Israel or must to be entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return, which allows Jews who were not born in Israel to obtain Israeli citizenship. East Jerusalem’s Arab residents do not fall into either category. The ILA recently changed this procedure and now, according to the new decision of the ILA council Palestinian residents of Jerusalem can officially buy lands or homes from the state.
In the standard agreement of the Israel Land Authority, when one buys land from the state (which is actually a long term leasing agreement), article 19A(3) says that if the buyer is not one of the above the agreement is annulled, unless the buyer obtained an authorization in advance and in writing from the chair of the Israel Land Council.
The instructions of the director of the ILA from 12/1/09, specifies the special procedures for selling/leasing to foreigners. A special committee must confirm it, and the chair of the Israel Land Council should authorize it.
So, who can buy houses and lands in West Jerusalem? Jews and Israeli citizens, and only recently also East Jerusalem Palestinians. It is true that 20% of the Israeli citizens are Arab, and they can buy properties in any place in Israel. But this is not a privilege but a basic right of every citizen no matter what his ethnic background.
For more bogus excuses see here