A Top U.S. Donor to Netanyahu Bought West Bank Land — but Palestinians Are Claiming Fraud

The plot of land near the West Bank settlement of Beit El reveals nothing of the drama surrounding it. On one side, Palestinians who claim that the land was fraudulently sold, and on the other, a company headed by elite members of the settlement movement. In the middle is a Jewish-American millionaire who is a regular contributor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the settlements, who, it turns out, owns the land.

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The judge hearing the case in a pre-trial motion said the deed of sale of the land — which has no buildings and little vegetation — “raises question marks.”

The affair began in December 2003 when, according to documents presented in court, the original land owner, the late Sadki Hamdan of the neighboring village of Dura al-Qar’, signed over irrevocable power of attorney to Doron Nir-Tvi, a lawyer who lives in the West Bank outpost of Havat Yair. In this document, Hamdan allegedly authorized Nir-Zvi to transfer ownership of his land to another Palestinian, the late Ramadan Abu Halal, who then allegedly signed an agreement transferring the land to an American businessman, Simon Falic.

However, according to the documents, the agreement with Falic was made in November 2003, although Abu Halal had allegedly only received the rights to the land a month later.

On the power of attorney that Hamdan allegedly signed is the stamp of a notary public from East Jerusalem, Abed Asli. However, Asli submitted an affidavit to the court in which he said no such document was ever signed in his presence.

The plot of land at the center of the case near the West Bank settlement of Beit El, June 2, 2020.Emil Salman

In July 2018, Hamdan’s heirs filed suit in the Jerusalem District Court in which their attorney, Husam Younis, claimed that the deal to sell the land was fraudulent. The suit was originally filed only against the heirs of Abu Halal, Palestinians who live in the village of Abu Dis near Jerusalem, because the Civil Administration informed the family that Abu Halal had been the person who purchased the land and it had been registered to his same for a time.

Later, the family discovered that the registered owner of the land was a company called Hakeren Liyad Midreshet Yisrael, which was established in 1982, and added this company to the suit. The company’s board of directors has included over the years key settler figures, including Benny Katzover, former head of the Shomron Regional Council, and the late Zvi Slonim, a former secretary of the settler movement Gush Emunim among others.