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Israel Land Authority officials arrested for corruption

October 10, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Lahav 433, known as the Israeli FBI, is an Israeli crime-fighting umbrella organisation within the Israel Police [Wikipedia]

Two senior officials in Israel’s Land Authority (ILA) were arrested this morning for corruption and trading insider information.

Israel Police said in a statement that the pair is suspected of bribery, fraud, breach of trust and other offenses, according to the Times of Israel. The investigation is being carried out by the Lahav 433 unit, the same police department that is currently investigating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption in what has been dubbed Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000.

Netanyahu's corruption scandal - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Netanyahu’s corruption scandal – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Investigators suspect that the two ILA officials “accepted bribes in return for illegally providing inside information to advance the business interests of others,” the Times of Israel added. Five others suspected of corruption were also arrested today, but none have been named.

The ILA issued a statement on the arrests, saying: “In the framework of an investigation by the Israel Police, two employees of one of the departments were arrested. We will make available to the police any information that may be required. Beyond that, we cannot expand any further,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

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This is not the first time the ILA has been suspected of back-channel deals. In 2016 it emerged that the ILA collaborated with a right-wing NGO – Amana – to forge documents enabling Palestinian land to be seized for illegal settlement. Haaretz revealed that in 1992, just weeks into the government of former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the ILA worked to give Amana permission to plan the use of an area belonging to the Abu Ta’ah family. The Abu Ta’ah plot, located in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, was earmarked to build Amana’s headquarters but the Abu Ta’ah family were not informed of the plan. Haaretz explained:

The plan was prepared and approved without the family knowing of the expropriation. The property map was redrawn to legitimise the expropriations, and related documents were hidden from the owners.

In 1992 the plan was frozen by Rabin’s government but resurrected again in 1997 under the first Netanyahu government. Although “a law obliging the ILA to publish land tenders had been enacted [by this time], this impediment was bypassed by adding a clause to the agreement exempting it from requiring a tender,” Haaretz added.

Israeli Attorney Steven Berman, an expropriation expert who represented the Abu Ta’ah family in the ensuing legal battle, said of the incident that the ILA “deviated from all rules. What happened here is that ILA officials inappropriately used their power to help a close political body”.

The Israel Land Authority administers the majority of land in Israel and provides documents for the transfer of land rights, building permits and land leases. Some 90 per cent of Green Line Israel is controlled by the Land Authority, a hangover from the pre-1948 period when Jewish institutions such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF) bought up Palestinian land for Jewish use.

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