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Volume 24, April 2006

Adalah Petitions Supreme Court to Cancel Wine Path Plan for
Individual Settlements in the Naqab

On 30 March 2006, Adalah submitted a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel demanding the cancellation of the “Wine Path Plan” (Regional Master Plan TAMAM 4/ 14/ 42: Partial District Master Plan for the Southern District – Amendment No. 42). In the petition, Adalah explains how the plan seeks to establish expansive ranches or "individual settlements" in the Naqab (Negev) for Jewish citizens on tens of thousands of dunams of land, and to prevent the use and development of the land by Arab citizens of Israel in the region.

The petition was submitted by Adalah Attorneys Suhad Bishara and Adel Bader on behalf of Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, The Negev Coexistence Forum and in Adalah’s own name, after the Sub-Committee for Principle Planning Issues (VALNTA’) rejected objections to the plan submitted by the organizations. The named respondents are the National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) and the Israel Land Administration (ILA).

Fifty-nine individual settlements currently exist in the Naqab region in the south of Israel, stretching over more than 81,000 dunams of land. In general, individual families live in the settlements, often without permits and in violation of the planning and building laws and regulations. The Wine Path Plan seeks to establish 30 individual settlements by retroactively legalizing existing settlements and allowing for the construction of a number of new ones. In the petition, Adalah argued that the clear purpose of the plan is to secure exclusive use of these areas by Jewish citizens and to prevent their use by Arab citizens. To support this argument, Adalah brought before the Court a draft report prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office for the Negev-Galilee Ministerial Committees entitled, “Individual Settlements – Northern District and Southern District.” The draft report advocated for the development of individual settlements, stating that, "The reasons for initiating [individual settlements] are to preserve state lands… [as] solutions for demographic issues."

The petition explains how, in the past, individual settlements were constructed and supplied with necessary infrastructure, such as connections to the municipal water supply, electrical and telecommunication networks, and access roads. The state allocated public funds to build and develop individual settlements without authorization, in violation of the law and contrary to proper administrative regulations. The State Comptroller raised the issue of the state’s inappropriate actions in his audit and Annual Report No. 50b, 2000.

In the petition, Adalah contrasts the strikingly different approach of the state in its treatment of individual settlements with its policy toward the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab. While the individual settlements are afforded official status and provided with all basic services, the unrecognized villages are denied this status and its inhabitants are forced live without basic services, Adalah argued. Many individual settlements are located in close proximity to unrecognized villages, in which tens of thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel live in dire socio-economic conditions as a result of the state’s discriminatory policies.

The petitioners also emphasized that the planners of the National Master Plan (TAMA 35) have objected to the establishment of individual settlements. The planners submitted an expert opinion to the NCPB on 20 July 1999, stating that:

TAMA 35's team views the policy of individual settlements as a great danger as it is a means of population dispersion and 'land seizure,' which are not regulated or controlled by the planning system. The settlement policy should be defined by the principles expressed in TAMA 35… It should be emphasized that the basic principles of TAMA 35 advocate avoiding the construction of new settlements as a planning policy. This is in order to focus our efforts on the development and reinforcement of existing settlements and to prevent the over-extension of efforts and resources to guarantee provision of public transportation service and secure the continuity of open space throughout the region.

The ILA presented the Wine Path Plan as an initiative for developing tourism and agriculture in the Naqab. However, as argued in the petition, the primary objective behind the plan is the preservation of "state lands" from use by "foreign elements," namely Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who are viewed as a threat by the plan’s initiators. The implication is that these unwanted citizens do not deserve to grow and develop as a group.

The petitioners further contended that the plan’s purpose is dehumanizing and indicative of the state’s view of Arab citizens living in the Naqab as a “problem” for which it seeks to implement “solutions” through discriminatory planning policies designed to promote their marginalization. Therefore, the petitioners argued that the decision taken by the VALNTA’ to reject their objections is contrary to the basic principles of the legal system, and that it severely violates the fundamental rights of Arab citizens of Israel living in the Naqab as it stands in opposition to the principles of equality, justice in land allocation and sustainable development.

The petition also included two expert opinions, one provided by Hubert Law-Yon, former Associate Professor at the Department of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology, and the other by Oren Yiftachel, Associate Professor at the Department of Geography and Environmental Development at Ben-Gurion University. In his expert opinion, Professor Law-Yon emphasizes that the programmatic assertions of the plan contain many vague and contradictory statements. He argues that the plan’s lack of clarity regarding the exact location and direction of the "Wine Path" undermines the assertion that its purpose is to promote tourism in the region. For example, the majority of the settlements proposed under the plan are located in areas that are sensitive in terms of their environment and landscape. Professor Yiftachel argues that the Wine Path Plan will result in the further deprivation of Arab citizens of Israel living in the Naqab and emphasizes that Wine Path Plan violates both regional and universal planning principles, the right to equality and the principle of distributive justice.

H.C. 2817/06, Adalah, et. al. v. The National Council for Planning and Building, et. al. (case pending)

 The Petiton (H)