Ministers defend right to confiscate E. J´lem property (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Gideon Alon and Zvi aZrahiya 02/03/05)
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Minister Natan Sharansky, who chairs the cabinet committee that
adopted the controversial decision to apply the Absentee Property Law
to East Jerusalem, yesterday indignantly rejected Attorney General
Menachem Mazuz´s charge that the Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem
Affairs made its decision improperly.
The decision, which Mazuz overruled on Tuesday, would have enabled
the government to confiscate East Jerusalem properties owned by West
Bank residents, without paying compensation. The law was applied to
all of Israel shortly after the War of Independence, but since East
Jerusalem was annexed only in 1967, it was not covered by the
"I am astonished by the accusations in your letter regarding the way
the ministerial committee was run, as well as the way the decision
was made," Sharansky wrote Mazuz. Specifically, he said, Mazuz´s
claim that the committee is not authorized to discuss the Custodian
of Absentee Property´s powers does not accord with cabinet rules.
Sharansky noted that the proposal was initially submitted to the
cabinet secretary, but no one in the secretary´s office suggested
that the matter was outside the ministers´ jurisdiction. The
committee´s agenda was then faxed to and put in the mailboxes of all
the ministers, as well as Mazuz himself, but again nobody raised any
Nor did a letter to the committee from Justice Ministry attorney Kobi
Shapira, which arrived the day before the meeting, include any hint
that the matter was outside the committee´s jurisdiction, he said: It
merely made comments about the wording of the decision.
During the committee meeting itself, Sharansky continued, Justice
Ministry representatives also raised no objections to the decision;
they merely said it was unnecessary, as the Custodian of Absentee
Property´s authority to operate in East Jerusalem had never been
taken away. And because of their comments, the committee labeled its
final resolution a "clarification" rather than a "decision."
"Your objections ought to have been made in real time, not several
months later, after the matter was publicized in the media,"
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the decision
to the Knesset yesterday by arguing that Jerusalem is a sovereign
Israeli city, no different than Haifa or Be´er Sheva, and all Israeli
governments, except that of Ehud Barak, have treated it accordingly.
The decision, he added, merely sought "to restore the status quo
ante" after the Barak government scrapped Israel´s long-standing
position that East Jerusalem is part of its capital.
"Jerusalem is united," he said. "That is how it should be. That´s
what sovereignty means. Just as Arab West Bank residents have no real
foothold in sovereign [Israeli] territory, they have no real foothold
in sovereign Jerusalem territory."
Regarding Mazuz´s veto of the decision, Netanyahu said: "I respect
the attorney general and intend to clarify the matter with him. I
hope he will accept my position."
MK Amram Mitzna (Labor) charged that the decision
constituted "theft." MK Reshef Chayne (Shinui) protested
that "Jerusalem is not like Tel Aviv." (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz.
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