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Jerusalem Absentee Law A Major Roadblock to Peace

The Israeli attorney-general has dangerously declared that property in East Jerusalem owned by Palestinians in the West Bank could be confiscated by the Israeli state.
Palestinian labourers queue next to a section of the controversial Israeli barrier as they wait to cross into Jerusalem at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem March 18, 2013. U.S. President Barack Obama is due to make his first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories this week, looking to improve ties after sometimes rocky relations with both sides during his first term in office. Israeli settlement expansion lies at the heart of much of the rancour between Israeli Prim

One of the most controversial Israeli laws that have been attacked as having a racist connotation was passed in the Israeli Knesset in 1950. The Absentee Law considered property belonging to Palestinians who left their lands and homes during the 1948 war to automatically belong to the Custodian of Absentee Property. This controversial law is being applied to lands in East Jerusalem whose owners live in nearby West Bank cities. Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem were part of one country in 1967. It is typical for Palestinians to own land in East Jerusalem even if they don’t live in Jerusalem.

The Israeli news site Ynet quoted a statement made by the Israeli attorney general in an Israeli court that this 1950 law is being used against Palestinian property. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein stated that property in East Jerusalem belonging to Palestinian residents of the West Bank is to be defined as Absentee's property. Weinstein was asked to produce a ruling on the issue in the course of a Supreme Court debate. Ynet states that in the past, attorneys general have given differing instructions on the subject, and now the Supreme Court has to rule whether Weinstein's stance is acceptable.

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