Plans suspended to tax Jerusalem church properties

Plans suspended to tax Jerusalem church properties”

An Israeli committee led by Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi will negotiate with church representatives to try to resolve the dispute over plans to tax commercial properties owned by the church in Jerusalem, Netanyahu's statement said.

O'Brien, the former archbishop of Baltimore and present Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, said that the proposed tax deal violated "international treaties and centuries of practice", claiming that taxes on Christian properties would run to "tens of billions of dollars", which would directly affect the services provided by Christian schools, hospitals, homes for the needy, health care facilities, and pilgrimage centers.

Now suspended, these actions were contrary to the historic agreement between churches and the various civil authorities which ruled Jerusalem, said Bishop Sani Azar.

"Demonstrators demanded the total cancellation of the new tax policy and condemned all arbitrary measures taken by Israel against Christian churches", he added.

In Amman, Jordan, Feb. 25, Mohammad al-Momani, Jordanian minister of state for media affairs, called on "the Israeli government to immediately reverse the decisions taken against churches and respect its obligations under worldwide law as an occupying power in East Jerusalem".

Local christians and tourists alike gathered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tuesday evening to pray in front of its closed doors.

Israeli politicians are also threatening to confiscate the land before it falls "into the hands of private developers", according to Haaretz.

In a statement, Netanyahu said a "professional team" would be appointed to come up with a solution to the tax measures which sparked the protest.

That is the fear in the case of Abu Tor, a neighborhood south of Jerusalem's Old City that straddles the so-called Green Line boundary between western Jerusalem on one side and occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank on the other.

The Christian leaders issued a joint statement where they cited a campaign of systematic abuse against them.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki and foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco met earlier this week in Brussels with Mogherini and the 28 European Union foreign ministers and said that the plan tilts toward Israel and is unacceptable to the Palestinians.

The land was sold for approximately $9 million by Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III. The last time the Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed to the public was in 1990 when the Orthodox Church leaders protested over Israelis in its buildings.

Christians in Jerusalem are overwhelmingly Palestinians. New neighbourhoods were built on plots leased from the churches, which are still the city's largest private landowners.

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