Is­rael backs down in tax row with Chris­tian lead­ers in Jerusalem

Arab News - - FRONT PAGE - City wanted to tax churches’ com­mer­cial hold­ings Churches in Holy Land op­posed new prop­erty bill

JERUSALEM: Is­rael on Tues­day sus­pended a tax plan and pro­posed prop­erty leg­is­la­tion that had prompted the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre to be closed in protest since Sun­day.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a state­ment from the of­fice of Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, Ro­man Catholic, Greek Ortho­dox and Ar­me­nian clergy were con­sid­er­ing next steps, in­clud­ing re­open­ing the church, Wadie Abunas­sar, an ad­viser to church lead­ers said.

An Is­raeli com­mit­tee led by a Cabi­net min­is­ter will ne­go­ti­ate with church rep­re­sen­ta­tives to try to re­solve the dis­pute over plans to tax church-owned com­mer­cial prop­erty in Jerusalem, Ne­tanyahu’s of­fice said.

“The Jerusalem Mu­nic­i­pal­ity is sus­pend­ing the (tax) col­lec­tion ac­tions it has taken in re­cent weeks,” the state­ment said. Mayor Nir Barkat has said the churches owed the city more than $180 mil­lion in prop­erty tax from their com­mer­cial hold­ings.

Church lead­ers, in clos­ing the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre, said church-owned busi­nesses, which in­clude a ho­tel and of­fice space in Jerusalem, had en­joyed a tax ex­emp­tion.

While the re­view is un­der­way, work on leg­is­la­tion that would al­low Is­rael to ex­pro­pri­ate land in Jerusalem that churches have sold to pri­vate real es­tate firms in re­cent years will also be sus­pended, the state­ment from Ne­tanyahu’s of­fice said.

The de­clared aim of the bill, deemed “ab­hor­rent” in a state­ment is­sued by church lead­ers, is to pro­tect home­own­ers against the pos­si­bil­ity that pri­vate com­pa­nies will not ex­tend their leases of land on which their houses or apart­ments stand.

The churches are ma­jor landown­ers in Jerusalem. They say such a law would make it harder for them to find buy­ers for chur­chowned land — sales that help to cover op­er­at­ing costs of their re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions.

Jerusalem’s mayor backed away on Tues­day from a move that had en­raged re­li­gious lead­ers and led to the clo­sure of the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre. (AP)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saudi Arabia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.