Israeli AG: Jerusalem Seizure Illegal (AP) By JOSEF FEDERMAN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/01/05 6:42 PM)
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JERUSALEM - Israel´s attorney general ruled Tuesday that a secret
government decision to seize Jerusalem land of Palestinians living in
the West Bank violates Israeli and international law.
The decision blocked what attorneys for the landowners said was an
attempt by Israel to confiscate thousands of acres of Jerusalem land
and to cement Israeli control over the eastern sector of the city,
whose fate is one of the most difficult issues in any future peace
The Palestinians hope to make east Jerusalem the capital of an
independent state, while Israel claims the entire city as its
Hundreds of acres of Jerusalem land have been seized in recent
months, the attorneys said.
Attorney General Meni Mazuz issued his ruling after ordering an
urgent review, saying he was never consulted about the policy, which
was secretly approved by Cabinet ministers last summer. The United
States also had asked Israel to reverse the decision after it was
brought to light last month.
The Cabinet ministers decided last summer to enforce a long-
dormant "absentee property" law that allowed Israel to seize the
property of Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes
during the 1948-49 Mideast war.
Since capturing east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War, Israel had
never applied the law to the disputed area of the city.
Mazuz ruled that reviving the old law is illegal, Justice Ministry
spokesman Jacob Galanti said Tuesday. "Mazuz gave his opinion to
ministers that this decision is not legally defensible, that it
cannot stand up to either Israeli or international law," he said.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s office declined to comment.
Hundreds of acres of land have been taken in recent months from
Palestinians who were cut off from their Jerusalem property by the
separation barrier Israel is building in the West Bank, according to
attorneys representing Palestinian land owners. Hundreds more
property owners were believed to be at risk.
"This is a very important decision. It is basically fulfilling
justice for Palestinians," said Mohammed Dahla, an attorney who said
he represents many Palestinians in the Beit Jalla suburb south of
Jerusalem. "It was unjust, unconstitutional and illegal under
Daniel Seidemann, another lawyer for landowners, said the government
policy had caused financial hardship to olive farmers separated from
Seidemann praised Mazuz´s decision as a victory for the rule of law
in Israel. He said he would make sure the land titles are returned to
their owners. "The actions of the absentee property custodian are
always secret. The landowners were never given notice. There was no
due process," he said.
In the 1967 Mideast war, Israel captured eastern Jerusalem and the
West Bank from Jordan. Israel subsequently expanded Jerusalem´s
municipal boundaries and annexed the enlarged eastern Jerusalem to
its capital, a move not recognized internationally. (Copyright 2005
Associated Press. 02/01/05)
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