Four years after we set out to abolish the problematic procedure by which property ownership was determined in East Jerusalem, the Mukhtar Protocol has been revoked.

The Mukhtar Protocol was one of the most corrupt, discriminatory procedures enforced by the State of Israel. In a nutshell, this longstanding procedural practice, which was used to establish ownership and as the basis for construction permits and other legal processes, replaced the requirement for documented proof of ownership with the say-so of local village
“experts.” In East Jerusalem, the testimony of al local village chief (mukhtar) sufficed, as opposed to the burden of proof – actual Tabu records, deeds, or other documentation with legal standing and verifiability – required everywhere else. 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 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, BeTzedek, Keep Jerusalem and others. We also spearheaded a public awareness and protest campaign against this dangerous and harmful procedure that has resulted in the illegal transfer of land to Arabs with specious claims. Notable champions of this campaign were MK Orit Strock, Deputy Mayor Arieh King, and Jerusalem Assemblyman Yoni Yosef, who joined us in actively fighting for the cancellation of the protocol.

Their efforts and ours were rewarded at last: On Friday 24 June, the Mukhtar Protocol was retired.

Yehudah Poah, Director of Betzalmo: “We welcome this decision. East 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: “The State of Israel should have conducted full regulation procedures for all properties in Jerusalem immediately upon the city’s reunification, and the foot-dragging has resulted in the loss of thousands of dunams of land to fraudulent claims and the erosion of governance. We congratulate 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.”

Keep Jerusalem welcomed the decision: “Today, a significant step was made for the protection of the unity of Jerusalem and for Israeli sovereignty over its capital. We congratulate all of those who worked for this change, particularly the nationalist organizations, Minister Ayelet Shaked and Mayor Moshe Lion.”

Attorney Eldad Rabinowitz of “BeTzedek”: “We congratulate the Ministry of Justice for its decision to cancel the Mukhtar Protocol, which was an illegal procedure that resulted in large-scale land theft and undermined Israeli sovereignty in East Jerusalem. We expect the Jerusalem Municipality to uphold and enforce this decision and stop granting construction permits on the basis of the protocol that has now been discarded.”

Yesterday, the Jerusalem Municipality and Israeli security forces tore down the illegal business complex at the north-eastern entrance to Jerusalem. The busy road going into the city can now be widened, which is sure to ease the traffic that drivers have become accustomed to near Hizma.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab residents who drive past Hizma suffer from the heavy traffic caused by the illegal complex. The complex also caused huge environmental damage because of waste disposal and misconduct of goods. And due to the proximity to the security fence, the businesses also provided a security threat.

Recently, we told you about the hearing on our petition at the Jerusalem District Court. During the hearing, a representative of the Ministry of Defense presented a secret enforcement plan to the judges while no one else was in the room. Our impression was that the Court reviewed the plan seriously, thus we agreed to pull our petition. However, we protested the decision to postpone enforcement at the complex, and demanded that the authorities implement the plan, in line with their promise to the Court.

Yesterday, the State finally fulfilled its promises and demolished a significant part of the complex. It’s a shame, however, that this case had to reach the Courts instead of the State enforcing the law straight away, when the first illegal business opened up.

The Binyamin Regional Council can now go ahead with their plan to add more lanes to the road, improving the lives of all the region’s residents.

We’re satisfied with this success, and will continue to advocate for law and order, equal enforcement and equal protection under the law as our only bulwark against chaos – now and always. To support our activities, make an online, tax-deductible donation here.