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APN Applauds White House for Taking Up East Jerusalem Land Confiscation Issue

APN today expressed its appreciation to the Bush Administration for pressing the Israeli government to reconsider its earlier decision to apply the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem...

January 31, 2005

CONTACT: Lewis Roth (202) 728-1893

APN Applauds White House for Taking Up East Jerusalem Land Confiscation Issue

Washington, D.C.-Americans for Peace Now (APN) today expressed its appreciation to the Bush Administration for pressing the Israeli government to reconsider its earlier decision to apply the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem, a move that effectively allows Israel to seize millions of dollars worth of property belonging to Palestinian landowners without recourse or compensation. APN called on the Bush Administration to take this step last week. According to subsequent reports in Ha'aretz, Israel has now promised the United States that it will re-examine its decision on this matter, and Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has announced that the government's decision to confiscate East Jerusalem property owned by Palestinians was made without his knowledge or consent.

"Americans for Peace Now appreciates the Bush Administration pressing the Israeli government to reconsider its decision from last summer to apply the Absentee Property Law to East Jerusalem. The Administration deserves credit for being quick to recognize a serious development that could heighten tensions rather than lowering them," said Debra DeLee, President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, a Jewish, Zionist organization that works to enhance Israel's security through peace and to support the Israeli Peace Now movement. "We are also encouraged to see that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is reportedly being responsive to the Administration's concerns. It is our hope that the Israeli government will quickly reverse its earlier vote based on the need to uphold the principle of fairness and to maintain the delicate balance of coexistence in Jerusalem.

"Israelis and Palestinians stand at a unique moment in time that presents an opportunity to move away from violence and towards greater cooperation on disengagement and broader peace process issues. Both sides have already taken positive steps towards improving the situation, and this spirit needs to continue."

Under the 1950 Absentee Property Law, every person who was outside of Israeli territory between November 29, 1947 and September 1, 1948 was considered an "absentee," and his or her assets were transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property, with no possibility of compensation or appeal. According to reports in Ha'aertz, the Israeli cabinet decided in July 2004 to apply this law to East Jerusalem for the first time, despite the fact that successive Israeli governments, both Likud and Labor, had declined to do so ever since Israel captured the city in the 1967 War. As a result, Palestinians who have been working on their East Jerusalem land for many years are losing their property. These Palestinians have been made "absentee" under the Israeli legal system even though they never left the area and have been dealing with Israeli authorities since 1967 without having their land rights questioned.