US lawmakers rip Israel bill to seize church land

Representatives, senator ask administration to do all possible 'to resolve this matter and ensure a lasting resolution'

US lawmakers rip Israel bill to seize church land

A bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers has slammed Israel for a bill winding its way through the Israeli parliament that Christian leaders have warned would reduce the faithful's presence in Jerusalem. 

Jerusalem's Christian leaders say the "Tenants' Rights Law" is aimed at expropriating church property in the holy city. 

The bill, which was introduced by Rachel Azaria, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for the centrist Kulanu Party, would allow properties in Jerusalem that were sold earlier by the Greek Orthodox Church to private developers to be handed over to the state, effectively nationalizing them.

The group of eight lawmakers from the House of Representatives and Senate sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday protesting the bill's advancement in the Knesset, saying they are "concerned that this bill threatens the sustainability of the historic Christian presence in Jerusalem."

The letter, which is signed by Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representatives Robert Aderholt, Gus Bilirakis, Anna Eshoo, Jeff Fortenberry, Andy Harris, Randy Hultgren and James McGovern, was first reported by the Jerusalem Post. 

None of the lawmaker's offices who Anadolu Agency reached out to responded to requests seeking corroboration of the letter. 

The lawmakers said "the impact of this bill will fall almost entirely on church properties."

"The resultant loss of church resources by provisions requiring church properties be subject to nationalization would make it impossible for the churches to continue to deliver their ministry within the wider community," they wrote asking the administration to "do everything in its power to work with the government of Israel to resolve this matter and ensure a lasting resolution."