Days of Palestine, Jerusalem -Palestinians in Jerusalem have only seven per cent of the building permits issued by the Israeli Jewish municipality of the holy city.
A report published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz showed that of the 3,238 building permits issued in Jerusalem last year, 188 were issued in Arab neighbourhoods.
Over the past five years, there have been 11,603 building permits issued, only 878 of which were for Palestinian neighbourhoods.
The data, which was published by the Israeli newspaper, points to a sharp drop in the number of permits issued to Palestinians.
Municipality’s figures show that before 2010, an average of 400 housing units were approved annually for eastern Jerusalem, while over the past five years an average of 200 permits have been issued for those neighbourhoods.
Most homes in East Jerusalem are built without permits – that is, illegally – since the neighbourhoods have no master plans on which building permits can be based.
Arab and Jewish neighbourhoods
To understand the problem one must compare how construction is handled in West Jerusalem, which the Israeli occupation considers its capital, with the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, usually referred to as East Jerusalem, even though many of these neighbourhoods are in the northern and southern parts of the city.
In West Jerusalem, most construction is initiated by the Israeli government; either the Israel Lands Authority or the Construction and Housing Ministry prepare plans, invest money in environmental development and infrastructure, and publish tenders.
The houses, mostly multi-unit high-rises, are built and sold by contractors supervised by the state.
However, in East Jerusalem, there are no government construction initiatives; all the construction is private and generally involves a small number of housing units built on family-owned land.
In addition, in most cases, East Jerusalem residents cannot get mortgages because of problems with registering their properties in the Land Registry.
Levies and taxes
Even if they can build their homes legally, they must pay very large sums in levies and taxes, sums that in Jewish Jerusalem are shared by the state, the contractor and the home buyer, who can also get a mortgage.
“Many people apply for building permits but cannot get them because when it comes to the levy stage it is millions,” says attorney Sami Arshid, an expert in planning and construction in East Jerusalem.
“In the Jewish sector the levies are paid by the state or the contractors, who then roll them over to [many] buyers, while the Arabs are building for themselves.”
Arshid gave an example about a family from Jabal Mukkaber who built seven housing units and were charged a betterment levy of 960,000 shekels [$249,000] and another 300,000 shekels [$78,000] as a road levy. “People just give up,” he said.
There is another reason that few people in East Jerusalem can get a building permit and end up threatened with criminal proceedings because they build illegally.