30 November 2005
Following Adalah's Intervention: ILA Includes all Arab Villages in the North in a Decision for Large Discounts on Land Leasing Fees
On 10 October 2005, the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) decided to include all Arab villages in the Galilee and the North of Israel in its Decision No. 897, which awards discounts of up to 50% on the price of leasing land for residential building purposes. The ILA informed Adalah of its decision in response to a letter sent by Adalah Attorney Adel Bader on 25 July 2005, demanding that Decision No. 897 be annulled. Decision No. 897 was adopted in January 2001 and subsequently extended several times, most recently in July 2005 until 31 December 2005.
In the letter, Adalah stressed that “there is a strong fear that the reductions given in accordance with the decision in question will be applied to Jewish villages only and will not apply to Arab villages in the Galilee and the North.” For example, Adalah noted that the Decision states that it does not include land allocated through bidding. As Adalah argued, however, the ILA allocates land in Arab villages through open bids or “registration and ballot” bids. Therefore, the residents of Arab villages are unable to receive reductions on the price of leasing land under the Decision.
As further evidence of the exclusion of Arab villages, in the original text of ILA Decision No. 897, it is also mentioned that, in order to ensure that applicants receive the reductions, “the ILA applies Directive 51(y) of the Agricultural Division [of the ILA] to land which is marketed at discounted prices in accordance with this decision.” As Adalah stated in the letter, these directives apply only to the leasing of land for residential purposes in the various kinds of Jewish agricultural areas: agricultural villages for laborers, cooperative villages, cooperative settlements, kibbutzes, or agricultural cooperatives.
Therefore, the practical implication of the Decision, Adalah contended, is the prevention of Arab citizens of Israel living in villages in the Galilee and the North from acquiring discounts on the price of leasing residential land for building marketed by the ILA under the Decision in particular, and their exclusion from enjoying, on an equal basis with Jewish citizens, the right to housing in general.
Adalah further argued in the letter that the Decision is not based in professional considerations or facts, is arbitrary, has no proper objective, is disproportionate, and discriminates on the basis of national belonging. Moreover, the Decision is unreasonable, as land is an extremely vital resource for the socio-economic development of all citizens. As an administrative body, the ILA, which is responsible for the management of 93% of the total land in Israel, is obliged to uphold the principles of equality, justice and sound administration as well as to use objective considerations and to rely on the relevant facts.