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AG reverses gov´t decision to seize East Jerusalem land (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent 02/01/05 14:59 (GMT+2)Source: http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/534764.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided Monday to overturn a government decision entitling the state to confiscate all East Jerusalem property owned by thousands of West Bank residents, without paying compensation.

The Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem decided in June to apply the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem property owned by Palestinians living in the West Bank, thus reversing the policy of all Israel´s governments since the 1967 Six Day War.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is responsible for the law´s enactment, Mazuz said it was not within the ministerial committee´s power to interpret the extent of the authority of the absentee property custodian.

In his letter, Mazuz added that applying the committee´s decision "could also have grave diplomatic repercussions on the separation fence, which has drawn strong criticism from the International Court of Justice at The Hague."

"This is an issue where clearly Israel´s interest would be to avoid opening new fronts in the world and in international law," Mazuz wrote.

On Monday, Mazuz informed the Association for Civil Rights in Israel that the cabinet´s decision to apply the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem was made without his knowledge or consent.

This contradicted 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.

Embarrassed Justice Ministry officials could not explain Monday how Mazuz wound up in the dark on such a sensitive matter, which clearly required a legal seal of approval. The issue constitutes a serious organizational failure that is now being investigated, the officials said.

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. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 02/01/05)

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