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Ministers defend right to confiscate E. J´lem property (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Gideon Alon and Zvi aZrahiya 02/03/05)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/535436.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 original decision.

"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 objections.

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," Sharansky concluded.

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. 02/03/05)

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