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No, They Can't: Palestinians Can't Live and Build in West Jerusalem

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One argument for Jewish settlement of East Jerusalem that is heard 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. "There can't be a situation where only Jews are prohibited from building in Jerusalem, while Arabs are allowed to both build and buy," said Minister Lieberman this week in the Israeli media. It's time to tell the truth: Palestinians can't really buy and build freely in West Jerusalem.

Take a look for instance, how the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, is trying to sell this excuse, when the anchor did 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 state 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.

Now to the facts: The truth is that West Jerusalem is effectively closed to Palestinian ownership. Why?
  1. East Jerusalem's Arab residents are not citizens of Israel. They are permanent residents of Israel, have 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.
  2. Most of the Lands in West Jerusalem and in Israel are "State Land" and are administered by the Israel Land Authority (the ILA).
  3. According to the official procedures of the ILA, anyone who wants to buy or lease land from the state must be either a citizen of Israel or must 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.

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. 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.

And another thing, even in East Jerusalem, in the Israeli neighborhoods that Israel built after 1967 on lands confiscated from the Palestinian owners, Palestinians from East Jerusalem can't simply buy properties, because it is also considered "State Lands."

For more bogus excuses see here

Co-authored by Kate Stoia.