Government freezes bill allowing seizure of church lands

Israel has postponed discussion on a bill that would allow the state to seize church lands that have been sold to private developers.

Under pressure from church leaders, the Israeli government on Sunday freezes debate on the contentious bill. Israel’s churches have repeatedly blocked the legislation, claiming it could allow Israel to expropriate valuable properties.

The bill’s sponsor, lawmaker Rachel Azaria, says church leaders have misinterpreted the bill. She says she is trying to protect thousands of residents living in buildings built on leased church lands.

Azaria says residents could face massive price hikes or even eviction from private developers when their leases expire in the coming decades. The uncertainty has caused property values to plummet.

Azaria says she hopes to reach a settlement with the churches in the coming weeks.

— AP

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