Israel suspends church property tax plan

Israel’s government has suspended Jerusalem’s church property tax plan.

As a result major Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church, have promised to reopen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

It had been closed for three days as a protest against the proposed taxation regime.

The church – revered as the site where Jesus was crucified and resurrected – reopened yesterday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said a professional team would negotiate with church officials to “formulate a solution”.

Jerusalem’s major Christian churches say they are looking forward to engaging with the team.

They hope Jerusalem “remains a place where the three monotheistic faiths may live and thrive together.”

Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat says the taxes would affect only commercial properties, not houses of worship.

He said other cities followed similar practices worldwide.

“As the mayor of the city of Jerusalem, my goal and role is to make sure people pay their taxes,” he said before the tax plans were suspended.

“We have no negative or bad intentions here.”

The churches say Barkat’s taxation plans undermine a longstanding status quo.

They say their non-church properties – such as hotels, restaurants and offices – have a religious need, as they provide services to pilgrims and local church members.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Tzachi Hanegbi will lead the government’s negotiating committee.

Committee members will include representatives from Jerusalem and the finance, foreign and interior ministries.

“The team will negotiate with the representatives of the churches to resolve the issue,” a government statement said.

The Prime Minister’s has also asked Hanegbi to look into land sales in Jerusalem, following a request by the heads of major churches.

Until he has reviewed the issue, all pending legislation on land sales will be shelved.




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