Gov’t to Register Land in Arab Neighborhoods of Yerushalayim

The entrance to the Arab village of Tzur Baher in Yerushalayim. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In 1967 the government of Israel declared Yerushalayim a united city, but other than allowing free access for both Jews and Arabs to all areas of the city, there were few signs of Israeli sovereignty in Arab neighborhoods in the city. But that is set to change, after a decision by the government to begin cataloging property in Arab neighborhoods of the city in the official state land registry (“Tabu”).

The inclusion of property in the registry, said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, is a “major step to[ward] ensuring that the city remains united, for the benefit of all its residents.”

Currently, land registry – which allows for the formal recognition of ownership – is based on a pastiche of old records from Turkish, British and Jordanian rule. In some cases, land records in Yerushalayim are kept by the Civil Administration, as they are in Jewish towns in Yehudah and Shomron. Without a recognized registry, enforcing judgments and getting mortgages is extremely difficult.

According to many security experts, this has led to a major housing shortage in Arab neighborhoods of the city, as it is impossible for residents to get building permits, as they cannot establish their ownership. The result is that additions to structures – often for married children or other relatives – are built illegally and are subject to demolition by the city.

Under the new program, government officials will begin recording claims and examining title deeds of those who claim ownership of property. Minister Shaked, who proposed the plan, expects that at least half the properties in neighborhoods like Beit Hanina, Tzur Baher, Mount Scopus and other areas will be registered by 2021, with the work completed sometime in the middle of next decade. The government will allocate NIS 50 million to the Israel Lands Administration specifically for this work.

With registry in progress, ministries that can provide assistance to residents of the neighborhood – such as hooking them up to water and sewage systems – will begin to work on doing so. The plan also calls for the development of industrial zones for the benefit of residents. The land registry issue is directly tied to these efforts as well, as registration will make clear where there are available public spaces for the development of infrastructure.

“Decades after we declared Yerushalayim a united city, we are beginning to actively impose sovereignty on all parts of it, and the plan to register land will help with that, and include the city in the same system that applies throughout Israel,” said Shaked. “This is also an important move for residents of these neighborhoods, as it will allow landowners to fully take advantage of their rights, including acquiring legal building permits,” she added.

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