A U.S. Justice Department official, here to discuss the possible deportation of alleged Nazi war criminals to Israel for prosecution, canceled a meeting with Israel's attorney general today after he learned that the Israeli Justice Ministry is located in East Jerusalem.
Instead, according to Justice Ministry spokesman Yitzhak Feinberg, U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark M. Richard and Israeli Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir had lunch at a West Jerusalem hotel but did not discuss the Nazi cases.
Predominantly Arab East Jerusalem was captured from Jordanian control by Israel in the 1967 war and was later officially annexed by Israel. The United States, which maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv along with almost all other countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, does not recognize the legality of the annexation, nor does it officially accept Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The United States has asked Israel to consider accepting for prosecution Romanian Orthodox Archbishop Valerian Trifa, who entered the United States illegally and was ordered deported last fall by a court. Trifa has admitted to U.S. authorities that he concealed his pro-Nazi activity, including editing the newspaper of Romania's Iron Guard, an organization believed responsible for the murders of hundreds of Jews and Christians during World War II.
The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations is also involved in litigation against 26 alleged Nazis living in the United States and investigations of more than 250 others. Feinberg said the United States has not officially offered to deport any of these others to Israel but that there have been informal discussions of the cases.
An unusual Israeli law empowers the country to prosecute people who "carried out crimes against the Jewish people in Germany or elsewhere under Nazi rule" regardless of current citizenship or residence. But officials here are approaching the U.S. cases cautiously and say they must be absolutely certain they could convict an alleged Nazi war criminal before agreeing to his deportation to Israel.
Feinberg said there has been no Israeli decision in the Trifa case. He said he expected the discussions to continue, possibly in Washington.