In an unheard-of development, a seven-judge panel of the High Court of Justice
ordered Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to appear personally to explain the
state’s position on using a 1950 property law to confiscate east Jerusalem
properties from Arabs for the benefit of Jews and the state, the courts
announced on Wednesday.
Weinstein essentially never attends hearings; he
sends representatives and deputies to present the state’s position even on some
of the most important constitutional cases.
The court reasoned that “we
cannot at this moment solve the specific concrete cases without requesting an
answer to the fundamental question raised in these appeals.”
that “since the central question will likely have a wide impact, including in
the political realm, we believe there is a need for an additional hearing in
which the attorney-general himself appears.”
Attorney Avigdor Feldman,
one of the country’s most prominent lawyers, who represents some of the
petitioners, said he couldn’t remember a single case in his entire career in
which the attorneygeneral was ordered to appear in person.
decision was handed down late Tuesday night.
Feldman said that the
decision to order Weinstein to attend had come after the state’s representatives
“had no answer for anything,” failing to satisfy the court in answering
questions about how often the state had used the Absentee Property Law to
confiscate residences and land in east Jerusalem.
Reportedly the state
has had inconsistent policies on using the law over the years, sometimes
invoking it but sometimes not. Former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar and
other prominent legal officials have opposed its use.
After the War of
Independence, the law was used to take over homes and lands that the
Palestinians had left absent or abandoned during or following the
The current controversy concerns to what extent the state can do the
same in east Jerusalem, with all of the legal, political and international
Feldman said the state had simply “ignored regulations”
that Shamgar (who also served as both military advocate- general and
attorneygeneral) and others had promulgated.
The court also ordered a
state committee that handles some of the related issues to produce its
guidelines for operating within 15 days.
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