Israeli attempts to tax churches opposed

A photo taken on February 2, 2018 shows Israeli border guards walking after Friday prayers at the entrance of Issawiya, a Palestinian Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, following days of clashes and arrests. (AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018
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Israeli attempts to tax churches opposed

AMMAN: Church leaders and lawyers have reacted angrily to news of Israeli attempts to charge municipal taxes on church properties in Jerusalem.
According to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat has decided to change a policy applied to churches in Jerusalem since 1967.
The AFP report says the Jerusalem Municipality informed the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office that it is demanding that church and international institutions pay municipal taxes on properties owned by them.
It is estimated that the municipality is demanding 650 million shekels ($191 million) from the new policy from churches and international agencies that have previously been exempt from paying such taxes.
Rif’at Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, told Arab News that the issue is not new, but that the timing is curious and seems linked to political, rather than economic, reasoning.
“It comes after the churches in Jerusalem took a strong stand against the US president’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and after they refused to meet with the visiting vice president Mike Pence,” he said.
Wadia Abu Nassar, adviser to the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, told Arab News that the municipality had not discussed the issue with church leaders.
“No one has been contacted on it,” he said. “This is an idea from some of the Jerusalem municipality council members.”
Nassar said that the Vatican and Israel have been discussing various municipal issues since 1993, and claimed there is an agreement between the two parties that no changes would be made to the status quo until those talks were concluded.
The Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, Atallah Hanna, told reporters in Jerusalem that the tax initiative is part of a campaign to empty Jerusalem of its remaining Christians.
“At a time when Israel is targeting our endowments in various illegal and crooked ways, now they are using the lever of high taxes against our churches, convents and institutions in Jerusalem with the aim of emptying the old city of Jerusalem of its Christians and to marginalize the Christian presence in Jerusalem,” he said.
Atallah pointed out that churches existed in Jerusalem long before the creation of the state of Israel.
“Some of our churches go back to the fourth and fifth century AD,” he said. “The tradition has always been to exempt the churches and their properties from taxes. This was the case during the British mandate, during the Jordanian rule, and even as far back as the Ottoman period.”
Botrus Mansour, a Nazareth-based lawyer and general director of an evangelical school, told Arab News that Israel must treat all faiths equally if they wish to begin imposing taxes.
“The ultra-orthodox Jewish organizations enjoy a wide range of privileges and tax exemptions,” he said. “The minute they treat all religious institutions of all faiths equally then they are entitled to implement this law on Christians.”


Jordan king says Israeli annexation would be a disaster

Updated 18 September 2019

Jordan king says Israeli annexation would be a disaster

  • Abdullah said “we’re looking on this with tremendous concern.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Tuesday that if Israel went ahead with the idea of annexing all the settlements in the West Bank it would be a “disaster” for attempts to find any two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Abdullah said he was “extremely concerned” about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to annex all the West Bank settlements.

He said it will “directly impact” the relationship between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and Egypt, and that “these types of statements are ... a disaster to any attempt to move forward to the two-state solution.”

Merkel agreed, calling Netanyahu’s vow “unhelpful.” The German government backs an internationally negotiated peace solution in the sense of a two state solution ... annexations are always detrimental to peace solutions. They do not help and therefore we do not agree, said Merkel

Abdullah said “we’re looking on this with tremendous concern.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Netanyahu’s career was on the line on Tuesday as Israel held its second national election this year, with voters deciding whether to give him another term in office despite a likely indictment on corruption charges.

The longest serving leader in Israeli history was seeking a fourth consecutive term in office and fifth overall. 

But he faced a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud. 

Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.