The Palestinian Authority Cracks Down on Sales of Land to Jews in Jerusalem

October 25, 2018 | Yoni Ben Menachem
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Earlier this month, agents of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction apprehended a Palestinian businessman named Khaled al-Atari and subjected him to a violent interrogation; he is currently in hiding. Atari’s crime? He had purchased a three-story house in east Jerusalem from an Arab family and then sold it to a group of Jews for $17 million—in violation of a Palestinian Authority (PA) law forbidding any sale of property to Jews. Atari’s apprehension, writes Yoni Ben Menachem, is part of a larger PA crackdown on land sales in eastern Jerusalem; it is also a violation of the Oslo Accords:

On October 20, 2018, the Jerusalem police and the Shin Bet apprehended Adnan Gheith, the PA’s Jerusalem governor, and Jihad al-Faqih, director of the PA’s intelligence office in eastern Jerusalem. . . . They were arrested on suspicion of abducting [an Arab resident of Jerusalem], a realtor . . . whom they suspected of selling a property in the area of Herod’s Gate in the Old City. The realtor is an Israeli citizen who also holds a U.S. passport. According to Palestinian sources, he is still incarcerated in an interrogation cell of the PA General Intelligence Service in Ramallah.

His family has submitted a complaint to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem regarding his arrest, but according to sources in Fatah, . . . Abbas has instructed that the realtor should not be released from custody. [Moreover], he wants to create a policy of deterrence against the sellers of land and property to Jews in the Old City, and he is looking [to make an example of someone].

According to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian security forces are not allowed to operate in east Jerusalem. However, the PA has been openly violating [this aspect of the agreement]. As a result, the PA security forces have been playing a game of cat-and-mouse with the Israeli police and the Shin Bet. Residents of eastern Jerusalem relate that during 2018, after President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the PA security forces stepped up their operations in the area. They are threatening residents on a daily basis and summon them to interrogations in the offices of the [PA’s] Jerusalem district governor. . . .

[T]he abduction of an Israeli citizen with U.S. citizenship is extremely serious. . . . This type of incident has not occurred in Jerusalem for many years. . . . It is time for Israel to take a strong stand against the Palestinian security services, who are violating the Oslo Accords in east Jerusalem to strengthen Abbas’s position.

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