How the Israeli gov’t rewards land thieves

In a closed conversation, the head of the Beit El Yeshiva exposes that he received millions of shekels from the State of Israel in compensation for his seminary’s violations of the law – with the quiet assistance of a senior Knesset member.

By Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din

Sometimes, it all comes out.

A few months ago, I wrote about the deceit allegedly carried out by the Beit El Yeshiva in Jabel Artis (“Givat HaUlpana”), where it sold and rented apartments on land it did not own, and which it knew it had no right to sell. Recently, Yesh Din petitioned (Hebrew) the HCJ, on behalf of the residents of Dura Al Qara, against the police decision to close the investigation of Yoel Tzur, CEO of the Company for Developing Beit El’s Yeshiva Complex, who admitted during his interrogation that he began building in Jabel Artis knowing the land was not his to build on.

On April 13, the news site News1 (Hebrew) exposed what the head of the yeshiva, Zalman Baruch Melamed, said in a closed discussion. From what Melamed said, it appears the Netanyahu government promised to compensate the yeshiva for the evacuation of Givat HaUlpana, and that the money is now reaching the yeshiva. Melamed, as quoted by News1, said that the government promised the yeshiva 30 apartments, building permits for 300 more apartments and “another payment” for building the yeshiva a new school building. In return, Melamed promised that the evacuation would take place without violence.

The funds, said Melamed, were transferred recently – and hereby lies an interesting story. A few weeks back, MK David Rotem (Ha’Likud Be’itenu) pulled every trick in the book to prevent the Freedom of Information Law from being applied to the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization. While Rotem was delaying, another settler – Nissan Slumianski of Ha’Bait Ha’Yehudi, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee – transferred the funds without the MKs knowing what the money was for. It now turns out both of them had something to hide: according to Melamed, of those 177 million, 23 million was earmarked for the Beit El Yeshiva.

This is what the rule of law looks like: criminals unlawfully seize land, sell apartments which do not belong to them, and when the theft is exposed in court, the government not only refrains from indicting the criminals – the police and the prosecution are, after all, a part of the executive branch of government – it even compensates them for their losses. And to ensure that the citizens won’t know what the government is doing with their taxes, it puts the money transfer under a sort of gag order. When the courts order its removal, MKs loyal to the government and the Beit El Yeshiva do everything possible to delay, using every dirty trick conceivable.

During the heated hearing in the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, MK Rotem said explicitly that his goal is to prevent appeals to the High Court against settlement construction. He also admitted that he represented the WZO’s Settlement Division in the past, which raises the suspicion of a conflict of interest. Rotem refrained from mentioning the fact that he was the person who edited the contract which the settlers would later use to justify the land grab in Jabel Artis – a contract which was not actualized since the fictive seller had no right to sell the land. Rotem probably suspected something was not quite kosher, since he added an unusual clause to the contract, demanding the seller present himself within a week and prove his identity.

That’s how it works. The Yeshiva in Beit El enjoys collaboration at the highest levels. Is it any wonder the police decided not to investigate this case too thoroughly?

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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