Photo Credit: Kobi Richter/TPS
A Jewish-owned building in Silwan/Shiloach. October 2016.

Four years of legal battles concluded over the weekend with the cancelation of the “Mukhtar Protocol,” a problematic procedure by which property ownership was determined in eastern Jerusalem by local clan leaders, and Arabs now have to prove actual verifiable, legal and documented ownership over contested property in the area.

The Mukhtar Protocol, described by the Regavim organization as “one of the most corrupt, discriminatory procedures enforced by the State of Israel,” was used to establish ownership of land in Jerusalem as the basis for construction permits and other legal processes, based on the testimony of local village “experts,” instead of properly documented proof of ownership.

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In eastern Jerusalem, the testimony of a local village mukhtar (leader) sufficed, as opposed to the burden of proof such as legal records, deeds, or other documentation with legal standing and verifiability, as required everywhere else in Israel.

Regavim pointed out that this “strange, antiquated procedure was an open invitation to widespread fraud, resulting in the violation of proprietary rights of both Jewish and Arab owners.”

Four years ago, when the Ministry of Justice attempted to revise and update the list of recognized mukhtars, a coalition of Israeli organizations was formed to fight the municipal and national bodies seeking to perpetuate this problematic procedure.

As part of the public campaign against the Mukhtar Protocol, Regavim led a series of meetings with the professionals in the Jerusalem Municipality responsible for land-use issues. The meetings were attended by Jerusalem-focused Zionist organizations including Elad, Ateret Cohanim, HaTzedek, Keep Jerusalem and others.

Four years of campaigning led to the Mukhtar Protocol being retired on Friday.

Yehudah Poah, Director of the Betzalmo rights organization, welcomed the decision, saying that eastern Jerusalem is “no different than anywhere else in the State of Israel. Our sovereignty and the rule of law there should be 100%.”

Attorney Boaz Arzi, Director of Regavim’s Legal Division, added that Israel “should have conducted full regulation procedures for all properties in Jerusalem immediately upon the city’s reunification [in 1967], and the foot-dragging has resulted in the loss of thousands of dunams of land to fraudulent claims and the erosion of governance.”

Regavim “congratulates the Ministry of Justice for its efforts to end this ongoing failure and cancel the dubious procedure, and hope that the process of land regulation and registration will be completed quickly and resolutely.”

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.