Mazuz pleads ignorance about East Jerusalem property decision (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Yuval Yoaz and Meron Rapoport 02/01/05)
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-Top
The cabinet´s decision to apply the Absentee Property Law to East
Jerusalem was made without the knowledge or consent of Attorney
General Menachem Mazuz, Mazuz informed the Association for Civil
Rights in Israel yesterday.
This contradicts an earlier statement issued by the Prime Minister´s
Office, which claimed that the Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem
made the decision "with the consent of the attorney general´s
representative," who attended the meeting, and after Mazuz himself
had seen a copy. Officials in the Prime Minister´s Office said in
response that they were skeptical about Mazuz´s claim of ignorance.
In his letter to ACRI, Mazuz wrote that the cabinet decision "is now
being urgently looked into and dealt with," and senior Justice
Ministry officials predicted that he would order it rescinded.
Applying the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem would entitle
the state to confiscate all East Jerusalem property owned by West
Bank residents without paying compensation.
The letter to ACRI, issued in response to the organization´s request
that Mazuz overturn the decision, was the attorney general´s first
public statement on the decision since it was revealed by Haaretz
about 10 days ago. "The Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem´s decision
on this matter was not made with my consent, or even with my
knowledge, and I learned of it only recently," he wrote. "In the
coming days, I will have my say on the matter."
How did Mazuz wind up in the dark on such a sensitive matter, which
clearly required a legal seal of approval? Embarrassed Justice
Ministry officials did not have a full answer yesterday, terming the
events a serious organizational failure that was now being
investigated. But Haaretz has learned that the ministry´s
representative on the Jerusalem panel, attorney Ya´akov Shapira,
failed to inform his superiors that the Absentee Property Law was
coming up on the committee´s agenda, and also failed to inform them
about the committee´s decision.
Nevertheless, Justice Ministry officials rejected the claim made by
the Prime Minister´s Office: that Shapira approved the decision. In
fact, they said, Shapira expressed reservations and recommended that
the committee not apply the law, thereby maintaining the status quo
that has existed in East Jerusalem since 1967. But the only two
ministers present at the meeting, Committee Chairman Natan Sharansky
and then-welfare minister Zevulun Orlev, rejected his position and
approved the decision. And since none of the ministers appealed the
decision to the full cabinet, it received cabinet approval
automatically, without ever appearing on the cabinet´s agenda - which
would have brought it to Mazuz´s attention.
Justice Ministry officials were particularly disturbed by Shapira´s
failure to report the decision to Mazuz after it was approved. This
was "problematic conduct," said one.
But two months ago, Deputy Attorney General Mike Blass also learned
of the decision, after the ministry received several complaints about
it. Yet he, too, apparently failed to inform Mazuz. At one point,
Blass even hosted a professional discussion on the question of
transferring "absentee property" in East Jerusalem to the Custodian
of Absentee Property, but ministry officials said that this meeting
dealt solely with problems arising from construction of the
separation fence around Jerusalem, not with the cabinet´s decision to
apply the Absentee Property Law there.
As for why the decision never appeared on the government´s Web site,
officials in the Prime Minister´s Office said that, at that time,
only decisions approved after a full cabinet discussion were posted
automatically. Only in the last few weeks, they said, has the site
also started posting unopposed committee decisions, which receive
cabinet approval automatically, without debate. (© Copyright 2005
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY