To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

Setting the Record Straight: Palestinians Can't Really Live in West Jerusalem

Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu argued passionately in the Israeli cabinet meeting that Israelis have the right to live anywhere in Jerusalem.   In his enthusiasm to defend this latest Irving Moskowitz project (the same Irving Moskowitz who was a key player in Netanyahu's Hasmonean Tunnel debacle), Netanyahu gushed:

"This has been the policy of all Israeli governments and I would like to say that it is indeed being implemented because in recent years hundreds of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods and in the western part of the city have been purchased by - or rented to - Arab residents and we did not interfere. This says that there is no ban on Arabs buying apartments in the western part of the city and there is no ban on Jews buying or building apartments in the eastern part of the city."

The problem with this argument is that it isn't true.  Israeli lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann sets the record straight with the following points:

- Most of West Jerusalem is off-limits to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem in terms of their ability to purchase property.  This is because most of West Jerusalem, like most of Israel, is "State Land" (in all, 93% of land in Israel is "state land").  Under Israeli law, to qualify to purchase property on "state land" the purchaser must either be a citizen of Israel (Palestinian Jerusalemites are legal residents if the city, not citizens of Israel) or legally entitled to citizenship under the law of return (i.e. Jewish).  This means an Israeli or a Jew from anywhere in the world can purchase such property in West Jerusalem, but not a Palestinian resident of the city.  (Technically, by the way, these are actually not purchases but long-term leases.)

- With respect to private land in West Jerusalem, legally there are no limitations on Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem purchasing in such areas.  Similarly, there are no legal limitations on Palestinian residents of Jerusalem renting in West Jerusalem. However, Danny (who is extremely familiar with East Jerusalem and its residents) does not know of a single case of a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem residing in West Jerusalem, either through purchase or rental of property.  (This is distinct from Arab citizens of Israel, a small number of who do live in West Jerusalem).  The reasons for this are social, cultural, and economic, and as far as State Lands go, legal.

- In addition, it should be emphasized that the ban on purchase of property on "State Lands" by Palestinian residents of Jerusalem extends to East Jerusalem.  Not only are Palestinian Jerusalemites barred from purchasing property in most of West Jerusalem, but they are also barred from purchasing property in the 35% of East Jerusalem that Israel has expropriated as "state land" since 1967, and on which Israel's East Jerusalem settlements have been built.  This means that in more than 1/3 of East Jerusalem, Israelis and Jews from anywhere in the world have a right to buy property in Israeli settlements, but not Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, including the very residents whose land was expropriated to build these settlements.

- A small number of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have rented apartments in some East Jerusalem settlements (principally French Hill, Pisgat Zeev, and Neve Yaacov - all settlements that are so far "east" that they are increasingly less attractive to Israelis).  This does not appear to reflect any political agenda to move to these areas, but rather is a byproduct of the severe housing shortage that exists in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.  And it should be noted that these are short-term rentals from their Israeli owners (as opposed to formal leases by the titular land owner, the government of Israel, to Palestinians).