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Photo: Reuters
Holy land in escrow
East Jerusalem stands in midst of heated real estate race, as various Jewish, Arab, Christian associations bid on every available piece of property

After years in which various Jewish associations have bought up scopes of land in east Jerusalem, with the declared intention of maintaining the city's Jewish nature – they now find themselves bidding against various Muslim and Christian associations wishing to get a hold of land in the city's east.

 

As reported in Yedioth Ahronoth Monday, wealthy West Bank-based Palestinians, funded by Persian Gulf benefactors, have been attempting to buy as much land as possible in east Jerusalem, concentrating their efforts in the Old City, in order to push out the Jewish associations – doing exactly the same.

 

Backed by private millionaires, Muslim foundations, Arab banks, the PLO's Orient House's Housing Division and even several affiliates linked to Hamas, these Arab associations offer twice, even three times, the property value compared to their Jewish counterparts.

 

Many Arab associations offer mortgages in favorable rates to any Muslim buying property in Jerusalem.

Arab associations, said the report, have bought 12 apartments in the Old City in the last four months alone, with four more apartments in the Muslim Quarter in escrow.

 

These associations have also bid on property located in Jerusalem's Shoafat and Beit Hanina neighborhoods, on the Mount of Olives; and have recently purchased a five-acre stretch of land in south Jerusalem, with the intention of building a new Palestinian neighborhood.

 

Palestinian sources claim Turkey has also become involved in the land venture, aiding Arab associations by denying the Jewish ones access to Ottoman land records – which may prove historical Jewish ownership of the land.

 

A bidding war

The various Christian associations found in the mix have reportedly been concentrating their efforts in buying land near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Jerusalem's Christian Quarter.

 

Right-wing activist Arieh King, funded by Jewish billionaire Irwin Moscovitch, has recently formed the Israel Land Foundation, in an attempt to stop Arab associations from acquiring any more land in Jerusalem, by outbidding them.

 

"If the Jewish National Fund would have done its job and buy these lands for the Jewish people, my work would be redundant," said King, "but the Palestinian associations are pouring tens of millions of dollars on lands in east Jerusalem, while not even one of our efforts is government funded."

 

King has recently submitted a 180-page report titled "The Palestinian's strategic use of illegal construction in Jerusalem, in their fight for east Jerusalem", to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's sub-committee on Judea and Samaria.

 

Zvi Singer and Ofer Petersburg contributed to this report 

 

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