Security establishment faces taxing issue in Jerusalem

Taxes in Israel, it appears, even supercede the country's vaunted security services.

Taxes in Israel, it appears, even supercede the country's vaunted security services. The Jerusalem Municipality announced Wednesday that it had filed suit against the Defense Ministry and Israel's domestic and foreign secret service for allegedly failing to pay complete city property tax for buildings they own in Jerusalem, and then barring city inspectors from measuring the exact size of the properties. The total amount in unpaid taxes is estimated to be over NIS 10 million, Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling said. The lawsuit filed in the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday night alleges that for years the Defense Ministry, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Mossad had all failed to pay the city their property tax, or arnona, in full, despite past agreement between the two sides over years past. The property in question was primarily various army bases in the city, including the army's Jerusalem enlistment office, as well as offices belonging to the secret services, city officials said. Negotiations between the two sides to reach an agreement over the last two years had ended in stalemate, said Moshe Levy, head of the city tax collection department. Levy noted that after underpaying the city for several years, the Defense Ministry subsequently refused to allow municipal inspectors into their properties to measure the precise size of the buildings, in question in violation of an agreement between the two sides and in keeping with standard city procedures. "They are acting as if they are above the law," he said. "We feel like we are talking to a stone wall." Levy added that the municipality had no such problem with any other government ministry, but noted that other cities have had similar problems with the Defense Ministry and only after talking them to court was the tax payment received. "The Defense Ministry which should be setting an example to the public at large are the ones who are not paying up," he said. A Defense Ministry spokeswoman declined comment Wednesday, saying that the office had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.