Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem: Israeli court may suspend law used to take over Palestinian land in Jerusalem
Judges worry that such a ruling would have far-reaching consequences, if applied to every case since 1967; Justice Elyakim Rubinstein calls the idea a "Pandora's box" that could cause legal and practical chaos.
by Nir Hasson 11 September 2013 Haaretz
Supreme Court justices indicated on Tuesday they want to stop invoking the controversial Absentee Property Law in East Jerusalem, which has been used often to transfer property from the Palestinian owners into the hands of Israeli Jews.
However, the judges said they were worried about opening a "Pandora's box" of legal problems.
During a hearing before an expanded panel of seven Supreme Court justices, the judges and state prosecutors pressed attorneys forPalestinians whose property had been confiscated to reach a settlement for return of their property or compensation in return for dropping the appeal, which would spare the Supreme Court having to decide if the law applies in East Jerusalem.
Under that law, any person who lived in a hostile country, or in the area of “the Land of Israel” that was not under the State of Israel’s control, and owned property within the state, is considered an absentee owner and his property can be transferred to the state’s Custodian of Absentee Property. The primary purpose of this law was to enable use of lands belonging to Arabs who fled during the War of Independence.
After the Six-Day War, which saw the extension of Jerusalem's municipal boundaries into the West Bank, Palestinians with assets in Jerusalem suddenly found themselves considered “absentee” owners, even though they hadn’t gone anywhere. Sometimes they were living only a few hundred meters away, but outside the Jerusalem city limits and officially in the West Bank, and found their property confiscated only because Israel drew the new municipal border between them and their property, making them no longer residents of Jerusalem.