Israeli Planning Authorities Approve Afula-Jenin Railway Plan Despite Extensive Confiscation of Palestinian Land in Village of Muqeible

Adalah and Bimkom objected to the plan on behalf of the local council of Muqeible and village residents, arguing that the plan would result in the confiscation of approximately 1,400 dunams of land owned by the residents of Muqeible and harm Muqeible's future development.

On 27 July 2023, the North District Planning and Building Committee approved the planned “Afula-Jenin railway”, rejecting objections to the plan, including the objection filed by Adalah - Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights. The organizations filed the objection on behalf of the residents of the village of Muqeible that is home to 4,270 Palestinian citizens.The decision came after the Committee's hearing on 12 July 2023.


            CLICK HERE to read the Committee’s decision [Hebrew]


The planned railway line seeks to extend a freight and passenger train between Afula and the  Turkish industrial zone near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, to transport goods from the industrial area to the port of Haifa and, in the future, to Jordan. The plan’s stated purpose is to “enhance the rail connectivity between the Palestinian Authority, the Kingdom of Jordan, and the Port of Haifa”. The plan also includes the construction of railway freight terminals, a railway station, and a designated area for the future relocation of the Jalama (Gilboa) military checkpoint.


Adalah and Bimkom filed an objection to the North District Planning and Building Committee on 1 July 2022 on behalf of the local council of Muqeible and residents of the village. In the objection, Adalah argued that the plan would result in the confiscation of approximately 1,400 dunams (346 acres) of land owned by the residents of Muqeible, which makes up half of their agricultural land. The planned railway is adjacent to the planned new neighborhood of the village, which will create noise, health and safety risks for the residents. In addition, the plan will harm Muqeible's future development, as the village has been encroached upon by Jewish towns, the new railway, a road and the separation wall.


            CLICK HERE to read the objection [Hebrew]


The North District Planning and Building Committee held a hearing in the case on 20 December 2022, in which Bimkom’s Urban Planner Cesar Yeudkin and Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany represented the local council of Muqeible and its residents and argued that the Israeli railway company had ignored the detrimental effects of the plan on Muqeible and that it failed to consider other alternatives that would be less harmful.


Following the hearing, the Committee issued a decision on 25 December 2022, ordering the railway company to examine the option to move the railway farther from the village and update the Committee within 30 days. In response to its update, Adalah and Bimkom argued that the examination of alternatives conducted by the railway company was inadequate and biased in favor of the current plan. In June 2023, the Committee published a decision stating that it is seriously considering moving the railway route away from Muqeible. To that end, it scheduled an additional public hearing on 12 July 2023.


In its recent decision, the Committee rejected the objections and approved the proposed railway route. The Committee emphasized that the alternative routes would not be better than the route proposed in the plan and underscored the plan's international importance. The Committee did, however, accept the railway company's proposed concession to reduce the plan's area by approximately 100 dunams near Muqeible, aiming to mitigate its impact on the village. The Committee further ordered that the railway company must construct a noise barrier close to the railway, rather than right beside the residents' homes.


Regarding the confiscation of private lands, the Committee noted that the plan permits the residents to continue using the land for agricultural purposes until it is seized by the Israeli railway company. Moreover, the land designated as affected area under the plan, which lies outside the plan's boundaries, can still be cultivated after the railway is constructed. Finally, the Committee emphasized that landowners are entitled to compensation, as a matter of law.


Adalah and Bimkom plan to submit a request for permission to appeal to the National Planning and Building Committee.


Adalah Attorney Myssana Morany and Bimkom’s Urban Planner Cesar Yeudkin commented:


“In our objection and during the hearings, we pointed to the numerous failures that occurred during the planning process, resulting in the approval of the railway route without due consideration for the concerns of the residents of Muqeible and the detrimental impact of the railway on their lives. Despite the Committee demanding that the railway company explore other alternatives and the Committee members expressing doubt in the June hearing about the reasoning presented by the railway company, they ultimately prioritized economic, operational, and political considerations and only made a minimal and unsatisfactory change to the plan's boundaries. This plan is part of a long pattern of national infrastructure projects and other initiatives aimed at developing Jewish towns and villages, which restrict the development of neighboring Palestinian towns and place a heavy burden, including extensive land confiscations and environmental disturbances, on Palestinian towns and villages.”