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Settlers rent out expropriated Palestinian land to Jerusalem Municipality

An aerial view of Pisgat Ze'ev, an illegal Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem and the largest residential neighbourhood in Jerusalem with a population of over 50,000 on October 04, 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf /Anadolu Agency]
Israeli settlement units in Jerusalem on 4 October 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf /Anadolu Agency]

An Israeli settler organisation is renting out part of a plot of expropriated Palestinian land to the Jerusalem Municipality who gave them the land in the first place.

According to Haaretz, Israeli authorities pay "nearly 1 million shekels ($224,000) a year to the Amana settlement organisation in exchange for operating a welfare department in one floor of an office building that the group bought from the government for that same price."

Amana, a group dedicated to settlement development in the occupied Palestinian territory, only received the plot – located in Sheikh Jarrah, occupied East Jerusalem – from the government in the first place "after it was expropriated from a Palestinian family".

Amana operates under the Yesha Council, an umbrella organisation of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. According to Haaretz, it is "the most important independent body for the establishment of new settlements and the expansion of existing ones in the West Bank."

READ: Israel advances settlement plans all over occupied East Jerusalem

The land in question – on which Amana has built an office building – "belonged to the Palestinian Abu Ta'ah family, which lives nearby", Haaretz reported.

Over a period of a number of years in the 1990s and 2000s, Israeli authorities worked with the settlers to advance the expropriation of the plot, in order to enable Amanda to build the structure. These plans advanced even while the land still officially belonged to the Abu Ta'ah family.

In 2016, "the Jerusalem District Court denied a petition from the Abu Ta'ah family against the expropriation process and the transfer of the land to Amana".

In 2017, the construction of the building was completed, after which Amana signed an agreement with the Jerusalem Municipality for the latter to rent the ground floor. The space now contains a welfare office serving the residents of settlements in northern occupied East Jerusalem.

READ: Pace of Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem 'surges' in 2019

While Amana paid the state 913,000 shekels ($262,000) for the land, it "now receives the same amount it paid for the entire plot every year in return for renting out only the ground floor".

Peace Now told Haaretz that the affair shows how Israeli authorities want to keep Amana happy.

"After it received the land that was expropriated in a dubious process without a tender, Amana is profiting in three ways: It built a luxurious office building for itself in the midst of a Palestinian neighbourhood; it also strengthens the settlement it built by bringing in Israeli visitors to the welfare office inside the Palestinian neighbourhood; and has treated itself to a nice income of about a million shekels a year at our expense and with the help of state and municipal institutions."

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