‘State transferred e. J’lem buildings to right-wing NGOs'

Court documents say 11 buildings were sold without a tender to Elad (the Ir David Foundation), businesses associated with Ateret Cohanim.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
November 7, 2010 22:04
2 minute read.
A Jewish-owned home in the neighborhood of Silwan

311_Jewish home in Silwan. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Eleven buildings in east Jerusalem were sold without a tender to NGOs that encourage Jews to live in predominantly Arab neighborhoods, according to court documents made public on Sunday.

The documents were the result of activist Dror Etkes’s three-year struggle to force the government to reveal how the ownership of certain buildings was transferred from the state to Elad (the Ir David Foundation) and businesses associated with Ateret Cohanim.

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“As a citizen, I’m very interested to see where property, which also belongs also to me, goes, and why does it go to this NGO and not other NGOs,” Etkes told The Jerusalem Post.

“It exposes a very corrupt relationship between the State of Israel, the Israel Lands Authority, and these two settlement organizations,” he said.

Elad has settled 62 Jewish families in Silwan since 1991. Ateret Cohanim has helped dozens of Jewish families move into the contested Beit Yehonatan apartment building in Silwan as well as the Muslim and Christian quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City.

In addition to being transferred without a tender, the buildings were obtained for well below market value. For example, a business associated with Ateret Cohanim leased an 88.9-square meter apartment in the Old City for 47 years for NIS 116,208, a figure significantly below current real estate prices.

Ateret Cohanim does not purchase real estate itself, but connects interested buyers with available buildings.

“Nothing wrong was done, everything done has been above board for 32 years,” said Ateret Cohanim founder Danny Luria. “If there’s anything that someone complains has been done improperly, there’s a court system we can go through.”

Etkes, who used to work with Peace Now and Yesh Din, calls the document “the tip of the iceberg” and said there were at least 70 other buildings transferred from the government to the two organizations in dubious transactions.

He based the estimate on a 1992 report by the Klugman Committee, a governmentappointed committee led by Justice Ministry director-general Haim Klugman, who counted 68 properties in east Jerusalem that had been transferred to Jews or Jewish groups.

According to the documents, Elad paid more than NIS 1.6 million for five apartments with 50-year leases in Silwan. Businesses associated with Ateret Cohanim paid almost NIS 2.6 million for four apartments in the Old City.

“If this is the policy, then pay the political toll for it,” said Etkes.

He is considering legal action based on the information contained in the documents, which were originally revealed in an article in Haaretz on Friday.

“The organization has in the past and will continue to operate in full accordance with the law,” Elad said in a statement. “It has in the past and will continue to work to purchase rights to assets in Jerusalem, in exchange for amounts that well exceed regular market prices.”

The Israel Land Authority declined to comment.


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