High Court summons A-G over east J'lem property

Weinstein ordered to explain state’s position on using a 1950 property law to confiscate east J'lem properties from Arabs.

By
May 23, 2013 00:52
1 minute read.
Palestinians stand near razed home in e. J'lem

Palestinian homes demolished 311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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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.

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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.”

It added 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.

The actual 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.

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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 war.

The current controversy concerns to what extent the state can do the same in east Jerusalem, with all of the legal, political and international issues involved.

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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