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The Settlement of Land Title (SOLT) in East Jerusalem: “The Most Acute Threat Facing Palestinian Residents of Jerusalem Today”


A new study by the Israeli organizations Ir Amim and Bimkom concludes that a government-funded five-year effort to undertake settlement of land title (SOLT) in East Jerusalem is being used primarily and non-transparently to seize properties that serve key state and settler interests, regardless of Palestinian ownership or residency there, thereby posing a grave and imminent risk to Palestinians’ presence in the city and to any future claims for Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem. Given that the declared aim of this process is to complete SOLT for 100 percent of land in East Jerusalem by 2025, this threat is most urgent and dire.

Understanding Settlement of Land Title (SOLT)

Upon occupying East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel froze the modern process of land settlement and registration (LSR) (see Land Settlement and Registration in East Jerusalem), which was started by Jordan before 1967 and meant to replace the customary and religious land registration method that had dominated in Jerusalem throughout the periods of Ottoman, British, and Jordanian rule (see The Complex and Unresolved Status of Land in East Jerusalem). The status of land in East Jerusalem, and Israel’s reasons for freezing and then unfreezing the process of LSR, are layered and complex (see An Expert Unravels the Complexities of Land Ownership in East Jerusalem). However, the freeze left a situation in which 90 percent of the land rights in East Jerusalem remained unsettled and unregistered (see Land Settlement and Registration in East Jerusalem).

In 2018, after 51 years, Israel issued Government Decision 3790, a series of measures purportedly intended to “reduce socioeconomic gaps and advance economic development in East Jerusalem.”1 Since the majority of those who live in East Jerusalem are Palestinians, and the rate of poverty among them is exceedingly high, it stood to reason that this set of noble-sounding measures was intended to help close the gap between the Palestinian and Jewish populations of East Jerusalem.

Among other things, Decision 3790 allocated NIS 50 million to unfreeze and resume LSR in East Jerusalem as part of a five-year plan to register land in East Jerusalem in the Tabu, Israel’s official land registry. The plan set a goal of settling land title for “at least 50% of the land in East Jerusalem by the end of 2021, and 100% by the end of 2025.”2 Doing so would ensure the state’s direct control over the land through the issuance of certificates of title, furthering Israel’s plans to strengthen and consolidate its sole sovereignty over East Jerusalem in perpetuity.3 

At the time the decision was announced, there was reason to at least hope that this process could potentially help Palestinian Jerusalemites resolve the status of their private lands so they could access mortgages and building permits which, under the conditions of freeze, had been close to impossible to obtain. Indeed, Palestinians have been struggling to register their lands in East Jerusalem—a prerequisite for any urban development—due to the 51-year moratorium, and there is a severe housing shortage in East Jerusalem for Palestinians.4 

Reason for concern

But there was also reason for concern that Israel would exploit this measure and use it to seize lands whose owners could be considered “absentee.”

This concern was strengthened when the sub-team appointed to oversee this area of Decision 3790 included both the Custodian of Absentee Property (the government role that oversees property seized from Palestinians who are declared “absentees” under the 1950 Absentees’ Property Law) and the General Custodian (the government role that oversees East Jerusalem property seized on behalf of Jews who owned it before 1948 under the 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters Law) (see Forcible Expulsions).5

In light of these concerns, several Israeli organizations undertook close monitoring of this and other aspects of Decision 3790.

Short Take How Israel Applies the Absentees’ Property Law to Confiscate Palestinian Property in Jerusalem

Israel uses the 1950 Absentees’ Property Law and several amendments to it to confiscate Palestinian property across East Jerusalem and give it to Jewish settlers.

Alarming Study Results: SOLT Is Advancing Only State/Settler Interests

In June 2023, two of these organizations, Ir Amim and Bimkom, published a study about Israel’s settlement of land title (what they term “SOLT”) throughout East Jerusalem. The findings of the study reveal that of the approximately 120 to 128 blocks of land for which SOLT has been initiated in East Jerusalem under Decision 3790 (excluding another 73.1 blocks in Beit Hanina, where SOLT is underway but the process apparently remains unclear at the time of study), not a single one is being advanced for the benefit of Palestinian residents. Rather, the vast majority (over 75 percent) of the lands being registered advance critical state/settler interests, and most of the rest involve church lands.6 These include 22 blocks for which SOLT has been completed, and of those, “90% advance state/settler interests.”7 The settler interests being served include facilitating the establishment of new settlements, expanding existing settlements and settlement enterprises—including those right in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods—and building roads to connect settlements to the north of Jerusalem with those to the south.8

“. . . of the 22 blocs (617 dunams) in which the SOLT process has been completed [in East Jerusalem], 90% advance state/settler interests.”

Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft”

A screenshot of an interactive map of the various stages which privately held land across East Jerusalem is currently at in the renewed SOLT process, developed by Bimkom—Planners for Planning Rights

A screenshot of an interactive map of the various stages which privately held land across East Jerusalem is currently at in the renewed SOLT process, developed by Bimkom—Planners for Planning Rights. The key to the colors is as follows: Jerusalem municipal boundary: indigo blue line; Separation Wall: orange line; Green Line: green line; and:

  • Any land currently in any stage of SOLT process, excluding Beit Hanina: green (120 blocks), which breaks down to three basic groups:
    • land blocks in initial stages of SOLT: (62.5 percent or 75 blocks)
    • land blocks in advanced stages of SOLT (5 percent or 6 blocks)
    • land blocks in final stages of SOLT (14.167 percent or 17 blocks)
  • Land blocks completed and recorded [title settled]: pink (18.333 percent or 22 blocks)


A screenshot taken by Jerusalem Story of the interactive map Settlement of Land Title Process, developed by Bimkom—Planners for Planning Rights, and accessible here.

Handing Wadi Hilweh to settlers

In the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan, the study finds that SOLT is being used to finalize the confiscation of Israeli settler homes, biblical tourist sites, and underground excavations—chief among them the City of David and the City of David National Park—that were mostly seized through forcible expulsion of Palestinians there (see Forcible Home Expulsions). The Israeli settler organization Ir David, known as Elad, has been targeting this area, where the Spring of Silwan is located, for decades to Judaize the southern portion of the Holy Basin. The study reveals that about 95 percent of Israeli settler homes and tourist sites in Wadi Hilweh “have been included in a property registration procedure that will finalize ownership rights of the respective properties and officially record them in the State’s land registry (‘Tabu’).”9

The report makes clear that registering these blocks in the Tabu as settler properties will be “nearly irrevocable” and that once that happens, the process of forcible expulsions could accelerate “in Wadi Hilweh and across East Jerusalem,”10 since Palestinian homes are also located in the blocks currently being settled.

A map of Israel’s land settlement and registration in Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, East Jerusalem

A map of blocks currently undergoing SOLT in Wadi Hilweh, Silwan, East Jerusalem. There are 15 blocks of interest currently undergoing SOLT, shown in yellow; the green dots (falling largely within the yellow blocks) are settlement buildings, according to data provided by Peace Now. The map clearly shows that large swathes of Wadi Hilweh are earmarked for SOLT and that almost all of the settlement buildings would be granted final title by the registration of these 15 blocks.

Process shrouded in secrecy in violation of all legal obligations

Another important study finding is that “the entire [SOLT] process is characterized by a total lack of transparency.”11 Lands are being settled without any public notice, especially to Palestinian residents who currently live on them. This is a violation even of Israeli law.

SOLT as Part of Israel’s Long-Term Plan for Jerusalem

In their report, Ir Amim and Bimkom identify SOLT as the “most acute threat facing Palestinian residents of Jerusalem today.” They assert that SOLT “is being exploited as a new and potent tool of land theft, under the guise of a legitimate legal process to establish Palestinian property rights.” Indeed, as feared, SOLT is facilitating the state’s confiscation of Palestinian properties under the Absentees’ Property Law. This is particularly tricky for Palestinians, who are fully aware of the ramifications of the law: iI, through the SOLT process, the state determines that any owner in the succession of owners of a property is an “absentee,” it can confiscate the “absentee’s” land and transfer it to the Custodian of Absentee Property. However, if the Palestinian owners decide not to register their lands in the Tabu out of fear of this outcome, the state can likewise confiscate them.12

In their report, Ir Amim and Bimkom identify SOLT as the “most acute threat facing Palestinian residents of Jerusalem today.”

In other words, to avoid losing their properties, Palestinian landowners need to undergo SOLT and hope Israel does not deem any of their successors absentees and recognizes their legitimate claims to the lands—a veritable impossibility. And in the rare event that a Palestinian landowner manages to prove his or her ownership claims to the land, he or she can potentially be required to pay taxes on it retroactively back to 1967, meaning prohibitive sums. According to several human rights groups, including Al-Haq, “Israel levies taxes on the properties prior to registration and, in some cases, the sum of the taxes may even reach the value of the asset itself and, if not paid, the asset may be seized by the tax authorities.” The exorbitant cost aside, the organizations add that this is illegal under international law, especially articles 48 and 49 of the Hague regulations.13

Far from its purported aim to advance Palestinian urban development, as claimed in Decision 3790, SOLT has “become the State of Israel’s main method to appropriate more land in East Jerusalem and advance the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians from areas of strategic interest to the State.”

Importantly, SOLT fits into Israel’s larger plans for the city and its architectural and demographic landscapes. That is, it fulfills Israel’s settlement aspirations in and around the Old City (see The Three Israeli Settlement Rings in and around East Jerusalem: Supplanting Palestinian Jerusalem) by registering blocks that will become part of new settlements (including Atarot, Givat Shaked, and Kidmat Tzion), and existing settlements that will be expanded in the process (including Ramot, Gilo, and French Hill).14 The selection of blocks for SOLT is therefore deliberate and strategic, further allowing for the infiltration of Palestinian neighborhoods, and the connection of Jewish settlements throughout East Jerusalem.

Ir Amim and Bimkom make this clear:

The blocks appear to have been deliberately drawn to include most of the settler homes and tourist sites, including the City of David archeological sites and the plot intended for Elad’s massive Kedem Center opposite the Old City Walls. Some of these blocks also include Palestinian homes, now at extreme risk of dispossession.15

SOLT also has grave implications for any potential future political process, as the study’s authors, Ir Amim and Bimkom, conclude: “SOLT has the grave potential to determine the end game of the conflict by cementing Israeli control of East Jerusalem and foreclosing the possibility of an agreed political resolution on the city.”16

While Ir Amim and Bimkom call for an immediate end to SOLT in East Jerusalem, they also recognize that this is unlikely given Israel’s interests in the city. Therefore, they emphasize the importance of SOLT being carried out with full transparency and equitability so the state can be held accountable for its responsibilities to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem.17

Given the influence of the Israeli and international stakeholders involved, and the Israeli state’s priorities, this is as unlikely as ending SOLT altogether.



Prime Minister’s Office, “Reducing Social and Economic Gaps and Advancing Economic Development in East Jerusalem” [in Hebrew], Government of Israel, May 13, 2018.


Noa Dagoni, “Three Years since the Implementation of Government Decision 3790 for Socio-Economic Investment in East Jerusalem: Monitor Report,” Ir Amim and Maan Workers’ Organization, February 2022, 52.


Dagoni, “Monitor Report,” 4.


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft,” June 2023.


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft.”


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft.”


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft.”


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft.”


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft.”


Al-Haq et al., “Israel’s Land Title Settlement in Eastern Jerusalem.”


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft.”


Ir Amim and Bimkom, “The Grand Land Theft.”


Ir Amim, “Settlement of Land Title in East Jerusalem.”

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