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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Police probe building of Kiryat Sefer neighborhood

HaAretz, Israel's Hebrew Palestinian Daily, gleefully reports this morning on what it calls 'land laundering.' It seems that Peace Piece by Piece Now is no longer satisfied with checking whether 'private Palestinian land' was sold to Jews. Now they insist on going back to the 'Palestinians' and giving them an opportunity to decide that they don't want to sell their land anymore - after they have been paid and after hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested in building on the land.

According to HaAretz, the Israel Police's National Fraud Squad has opened a criminal investigation into the 'illegal construction' of hundreds of housing units in the Matityahu East neighborhood of Modi'in Ilit (Kiryat Sefer). A statement to this effect was submitted on Tuesday to the High Court of Justice in response to an injunction issued at the request of the Peace Now movement.

The police investigation is focusing on senior local council officials, entrepreneurs and large construction companies, and Jewish real estate dealers who acquired privately owned Palestinian land, lawyers and settler organizations involved in "land redemption."

HaAretz reports:
According to police suspicions, a lawyer at one of the settler organizations purchased the land in question based on an affidavit submitted by the mukhtar of Bil'in, who claimed that because of the security situation, he was unable to get to the village and collect the signatures of the landowners.

During the course of Tuesday's legal debate, the High Court was told of a land-laundering system that allowed the real-estate dealers and settler organizations to convert private land - purchased sometimes through dubious means - into "state land."

Ahead of the construction of the separation fence in the area, the land was "returned" to the buyers so that they could establish facts on the ground and press the Defense Ministry into moving the route of the fence to the east of the new neighborhood.
At Tuesday's High Court debate, the state did not object to extending the construction ban that is already in place, but said it was opposed to razing the illegal structures that had already been completed or were near completion. The state also said it saw no cause to evict individuals who had already moved into their apartments.

In most of the world, this would be resolved through compensation if in fact the 'landowners' were not paid. In Israel, we may need to worry about the 'illegal structures' being razed with the assistance of club-wielding police.


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