Adalah Files a Pre-Petition to Stop the Proposed Expansion of the Omer Municipality into Two Unrecognized Arab Villages


On July 24, 2000, Adalah lawyer Marwan Dalal filed a pre-petition to the Attorney General's Office to stop the proposed expansion of the Omer Municipality.  Omer is a wealthy Jewish town in the south of Israel, neighboring Beer Sheva (Beer el-Sabe).  The Mayor of Omer, Mr. Pini Badash, had planned to expand the town such that it would include two neighboring unrecognized Arab villages, Em Batin and Al Maquman, within its jurisdiction.  Mr. Badash’s initiative was approved by the Interior Ministry in March 2000.

In June 1997, the Interior Minister appointed a Borders Committee, headed by Professor David Newman, to reconsider the borders of Omer and the neighboring municipality of Bnei Shimon, in preparation for Omer’s territorial expansion.  In April 1998, the Mayor of Bnei Shimon, Mr. Shmoli Kadmon, sent a letter to the Minister expressing his disapproval of the transfer of Bnei Shimon’s territory to Omer.  In his letter, Mayor Kadmon stated: “Based on our information and understanding, the Omer Municipality does not need these territories for building or for development purposes.  From explicit statements that we received, the intent is to clear the area of the Bedouins living there.  I apologize for this statement, but this is a quotation.”

After examining the issue, the Borders Committee recommended that the Interior Minister expand the jurisdiction of Omer, and in March 2000, the Minister officially expanded Omer’s territory to include the unrecognized villages of Em Batin and Al Maqiman.  The Ministry did not publish its decision in Arabic.

In May 2000, Professor David Newman sent a letter to the Interior Minister informing him of oversights made by the Borders Committee.  Professor Newman indicated, among other things, that the Committee had not met with any residents of the unrecognized villages, and that it had only visited the area one time, accompanied and guided in its tour by Omer's Mayor, Mr. Badash.  Professor Newman concluded by stating: “Based on these facts, it seems to me that the recommendations of the committee regarding the examined area are not based on all of the information which was needed.  I have no doubt that had the committee had all the information, and had it heard all the interested parties (including representatives from the unrecognized villages), we would have recommended the transfer of smaller areas to the Omer Municipality.  We certainly would not have recommended the transfer of areas that we thought at the time were empty of inhabitants, and afterwards learned that these areas are inhabited by approximately 5,000 people.”

In June 2000, Adalah learned from the media that the Interior Minister froze Omer’s expansion.  In response to this information, Adalah submitted a series of questions to the Ministry's Legal Advisor concerning the basis for the Ministry's original decision to expand Omer.  The Legal Advisor responded that the decision remained valid, and that: “in the coming days, the  Director General of the Ministry of the Interior is planning to establish another Borders Committee that will also examine the areas of the unrecognized villages.”

Adalah then requested and received the document of appointment for this second proposed Borders Committee.  The document stated that: “there is no date for ending the work of the committee.” 

Based on this information, Adalah's pre-petition requested that the Attorney General intervene and require that the Interior Minister to: 

 a. Abolish the Ministry's March 2000 decision to expand Omer Municipality; 
 b. Set an agenda and a final date for work of the new Borders Committee; 
 c. Publish the Borders Committee’s recommendations in Arabic so that, Arab  residents of the unrecognized villages affected by the work of the Committee,  will have access to the material. 

Adalah indicated in its pre-petition that if its claims were not satisfied, Adalah would petition the Supreme Court.