Nof Zion: Vote on Arab businessman's offer postponed

Bemunah hopes delay is enough for counter-offer for Jewish complex in east Jerusalem to be accepted, making other offer meaningless.

nof zion 311 (photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
nof zion 311
(photo credit: MELANIE LIDMAN)
Palestinian-American businessman Basher al-Masri’s efforts to buy a Jewish housing development in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem faced another hurdle on Tuesday at a four-hour meeting in Tel Aviv, when bondholders decided to delay a vote on the offer for at least a few days.
Masri has made the highest offer – NIS 60 million – to buy the debt of the struggling Digal Company, which is building the 400-apartment Nof Zion complex in the Jebl Mukaber neighborhood.
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Jewish residents of Nof Zion’s first 100 apartments, completed in 2008, were promised that the development would be sold only to national-religious families.
They are enraged that the company could be taken over by a Palestinian, who might sell the remaining apartments, which have yet to be built, to Arab families instead.
Thirty of Digal’s bondholders took part in the marathon meeting on Tuesday, including five Nof Zion residents who have bought small amounts of bonds from the company in order to be able to attend the meetings. The five residents hold less than 1 percent of the company’s bonds. A few other residents also protested outside the meeting.
“There was a lot of yelling, it was very stormy, they were yelling at the heads of Digal, at the bondholders, at [attorney] Dov Weisglass’s company,” Bemuna CEO Israel Zeira said.
Bemuna is mounting a counter-offer, for NIS 15 million less, to buy the land intended for the future development and render Masri’s offer useless. Bemuna has been in negotiations with Bank Leumi for six months, but it believes a breakthrough will come in the next day or so, before the bondholders have a chance to vote on Masri’s offer.
“This is excellent, this is exactly what we wanted,” Zeira said of the bondholder’s postponement of the vote.
Masri is being represented by Weisglass, who was the director of prime minister Ariel Sharon’s bureau.
Masri is also responsible for the Rawabi new-city development for middle- class Palestinians planned for north of Ramallah.
Residents of Nof Zion are waiting to see how the vote plays out in the next few days before they start to panic.
“We’re doing everything we can, we’ll pray, we’ll fight,” Tili Tannenbaum said, as she watched her two children play in Nof Zion’s playground with a stunning panorama of the Old City as a backdrop.
“We really hope it won’t happen, because this is a Jewish bubble in a strategic place.”
She added that as a renter, she was less tied to the neighborhood than owners, but the issue still worried her.
“I can’t say that I’ll leave and I can’t say that I’ll stay” if the rest of the apartments are built and sold to Arabs, Tannenbaum said.
Nof Zion is slated to have 400 apartments, a mall, a synagogue, a hotel, and nursery schools when it is finished.
Thus far, only the first of four stages has been built.
Jebl Mukaber resident Motaz Alasi, who owns a convenience store next to the Nof Zion complex, said the local Arabs didn’t really believe anything would change, and that barely anyone was talking about the possible deal.