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Israeli Cabinet Approves Controversial Land Bill - 2002-07-08


Israel's cabinet has approved legislation that would bar Arabs from buying homes in some Jewish communities. The move has sparked outrage among ministers that dissented from the decision.

Israel's cabinet has approved a bill that would enable state land to be apportioned for Jews only.

The bill was proposed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, a member of the National Religious Party, one of the factions that make up the coalition government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The move is designed to effectively overturn a landmark decision of Israel's supreme court.

Two years ago the court ruled that Arab citizens of Israel, who number more than one million, have the right to live in communal settlements located on state land, regardless of whether the majority population is Jewish.

The court voted 4-1 in March 2000 in favor of a petition by an Arab couple asking for permission to buy land and build a home in the communal settlement of Katzir, established by the Jewish Agency in 1982.

Before the ruling, Israeli Arabs had been prevented from building or moving to the community because the Jewish Agency deals only with Jewish settlements and the local leaders of the community only accepted Jews.

Dan Meridor, a minister without portfolio, says the bill threatens to damage Israel's image in the international community.

He said that he doubted the late Menachem Begin, the first Israeli prime minister to forge a peace treaty with an Arab state, would have considered holding a debate on a law that would grant land only to Jews.

In another development, the cabinet also approved legislation aimed at preventing Palestinians from claiming compensation for damages sustained during the Israeli army's operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The proposed bill states that "a person who numbers among the enemies of the state, or is a resident of a region in conflict," cannot submit compensation claims against Israel.

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