A-G Rules: E. Jerusalem Outside Purview of Absentee Owner Law (INN-ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) 02/01/05)
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After declaring last week that Jewish National Fund lands should be
made available to Arabs, Attorney-General Mazuz has now taken another
step in the same direction.
Mazuz said that the law regarding absentee-owner property does not
apply to all of Jerusalem.
Several days ago it was learned that a ministerial committee had
decided that the Absentee Property Law applies to eastern Jerusalem,
just as it does to the rest of the country. The law, legislated in
1950, states that land owned by people who, during the War of
Independence, "were in any part of the Land of Israel that is outside
the territory of Israel" - Judea, Samaria or Gaza, for all intents
and purposes – is transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property,
and from there to the State of Israel.
Several months ago, on July 8, 2004, a ministerial committee convened
and resolved to "remove all doubt" that the law applies to eastern
Jerusalem. The decision ascertained that Israel´s relevant bodies
could "transfer, sell or lease real estate property in eastern
Previous governments made sure not to implement this law in eastern
Jerusalem. Minister Natan Sharansky and then-Minister Zevulun Orlev,
however – the only ministers present at the July committee meeting,
though representatives of other ministries, as well as of the
Attorney-General´s office, were present – overturned this policy.
When news of the decision became known on Jan. 20 following a Haaretz
newspaper story, a lawyer representing local Arabs appealed to
Attorney-General Mazuz to overturn the policy. Mazuz´s first response
was that he knew nothing of the Cabinet decision, and that he would
issue a response shortly. He did so this morning, informing the
government that the status quo ante was being re-instituted. He
explained that the decision to apply the law to eastern Jerusalem was
unjust, and that Israel´s international image was at stake.
An unknown number of thousands of dunams (quarter-acres) owned by
Arab residents of Judea and Samaria are at issue.
Orlev, now a regular MK of the National Religious Party after having
resigned from the government two months ago over the disengagement
plan, explained to Arutz-7 today, "Just like the law applies to lands
outside Tel Aviv, it similarly applies to eastern Jerusalem – there
is no difference... When we convened as the ministerial committee, we
dealt only with procedural issues, such as cutting down on the
necessity for permits; instead of the Attorney-General´s permit,
which takes up to a year to receive, we determined that a permit from
the Finance Ministry´s legal counsel would suffice."
Orlev said he is proud of the role he had in strengthening Jewish
Jerusalem: "I don´t understand the Attorney-General; he is not above
the law. He has apparently decided to divide Jerusalem, because he´s
saying that the law applies everywhere except for eastern Jerusalem.
There can´t be any difference between the Arabs who left in 1948 or
1967. This decision is truly like a national suicide of the Jewish
State - just like his decision of a few days ago to take Jewish
National Fund lands and allow them to be given to Arabs."
Orlev said that he is looking into what can be done to offset Mazuz´s
decision, but he did not sound very confident: "What, do you think I
can file suit in the Supreme Court against the Attorney-General?
They´ve all studied together with him, and their positions on Jewish
issues such as this one are well-known. Very sadly, even though it
seems to be an open-and-shut case of applying the law equally, I have
to say that I have no trust in the Supreme Court on issues such as
this one." (IsraelNationalNews © 02/01/05)
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