The National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) recently issued its decision on objections submitted against Master Plan Tamam 2/9 for the Northern District of Israel. The plan under review by the NCPB was initiated in 1986 and refers to the Arab population as a problem by virtue of its very existence in the north: “The taking control of [the Northern District] by Arab elements is a fact that the State of Israel is not dealing with as it should and this will cause distress for future generations.” The stated goal of the plan was “preserving the lands of the nation and Judaizing the Galilee.”
The decision of the NCPB rejected the requests of the objectors to cancel the plan and to order the drafting of a new plan for the region in accordance with the principles of equality and public participation in planning. However, the decision also partially accepts the objections to the plan and calls for significant revisions, particularly with regard to the establishment of employment zones and overcrowding in Arab towns and villages, and the possibilities for expanding the areas for development within them.
The decision is important for its recognition, in practice, of the existing discrimination between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel, particularly in terms of economic development, and because it calls for a series of changes in this field. Nonetheless, it ignores significant problems that stem from the process of drafting the plan, during which Arabs in Israel were perceived as a threat. The decision rejects all of the arguments in this regard and states, inter alia, that, “even if mistakes were made in the process of collecting data and formulating the plan, and insufficient attention was paid to the Arab sector, they were made in good faith.”
Ultimately, and as a result of many flaws in the planning process and its long duration, the master plan still grants broad discretion to the planning authorities and the National Council for Planning and Building, in particular. This council is a governmental institution that has functioned in such a way as to continue the state’s discriminatory policies against the Arab population in land and planning. There is no sign of change in the orientation that guides this council.
This plan will not provide assistance to the Arab citizens living in the Northern District of Israel. The use of this plan for the development of Arab communities is subject to the authority of the NCPB and therefore as long as the state’s policy toward the Arab population does not change fundamentally, the benefits of the new master plan for the Northern District will remain impracticable.
The objections were submitted in December 2001 by Adalah and the Arab Center for Alternative Planning on behalf of the municipalities of Nazareth, Tamra and Sakhnin, and the local councils of Kawkab Abu al-Hija, Dir Hana, Sajur, Dir al-Asad, Arrabe, Nahaf, I’bilin, Kabul, Kufr Manda, Turan, Jedaideh al-Makar, Majd al-Krum, Iksal, Beit Jan, Bu’ayna Nujidat, Yafi’a, Raineh, Ilaboun, ‘Ein Mahl, Mashad, Kufr Kana and Basmat Tivon. The objectors posed three main challenges to the plan:
A. The process of preparing the plan. A main argument raised against this aspect of the plan was that it is a sectoral plan in which the State of Israel views itself in confrontation with the Arab citizens of the region on matters of land and planning. For example, the three primary problems defined by the planners were: (i) “a clear Jewish minority in many parts of the Galilee”; (ii) “the territorial contiguity of Arab communities”; and (iii) “land grabs and illegal construction.” Arguments were also directed against the lack of Arab participation in drafting the plan. For example, the committee that finalized the plan had eleven members, but not a single Arab representative, and among the thirty members of the steering committee, there were just two Arab representatives.
It was also argued that the data supporting the master plan was deficient and flawed. The planners completely ignored the conditions on the ground in Arab towns and villages, and failed to address the inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens in the region as a problem for the plan to resolve. They also failed to address the shortage of land for development in Arab towns and villages, as well as their need for economic development.
B. Analyzing the government’s maps and standards. The objectors argued that the plan ignores the rising rates of unemployment in Arab towns and villages, the high percentage of unemployed Arab women, the lack of industrial and employment zones in Arab communities (which create workplaces for the local population and increase the tax revenues received by Arab local authorities), and the huge gaps that exist between Jewish and Arab citizens living in the region in terms of economic development. As a result, the employment areas proposed for Arab towns and villages amount to less than one percent of the employment zones proposed in the plan. The plan and the maps of land designation also totally disregard the development of any social or cultural services for the Arab population in the region.
The objectors also argued that the projections of population growth for the Arab communities in the region do not correspond to the demographic parameters of Arabs citizens and are not commensurate with their demographic development in the region. The population in Arab towns and villages, according to these projections, is much lower than in other projections undertaken for master plans in many Arab towns and villages in the region.
It was also argued that it would be almost impossible to develop and expand any Arab town or village in the region in light of the demarcation of their boundaries and environmental directives. The boundaries demarcated in the maps do not respond to the needs of Arab towns and villages and do not include all of the built-up land in these communities. Further, there are significant restrictions pertaining to the expansion of these towns and villages beyond the demarcated borders due to environmental directives.
C. The plan’s feasibility. The objectors argued that the implementation of the plan would create clear ethnic conflicts between Jews and Arabs in the region, particularly in light of the discrimination it entails in the allocation of development and planning resources in the region.
As noted above, the NCPB decision calls for significant revisions to the plan, thereby partly accepting the aforementioned objections. These revisions include:
A. With regard to the process of preparing the plan and public participation, the NCPB decided that, “the claim that the level of involvement of the Arab sector in preparing the regional master plan was limited is an accurate claim, and in retrospect it can be said that there was space for involving the Arab sector in drafting the plan more extensively.” The NCPB, however, did not recognize this factor to be a fundamental shortcoming requiring the cancellation of the plan.
On the issue of an opinion survey carried out among public representatives, the NCPB also decided that, “the survey in the Jewish sector was more comprehensive and the survey should have been more in-depth in the Arab sector.” However, the conclusions of the NCPB in this regard are for the future only. As stated in the decision, “The principal lesson from the process must be directed toward the future. There is room to include the Arab sector in an equitable manner in designing the region’s next master plan […].”
B. On the issue of economic development it was decided, inter alia, to amend the plan’s directives to enable “the designation of an area for employment in a local plan, in a rural or urban community, if the community is ranked in one of the four clusters 1-4 in the ranking of local authorities according to the socio-economic level of the population (according to the Central Bureau of Statistics) and has no employment zone […].” The decision states that, “Most of the large employment zones are indeed located within the jurisdiction of Jewish local authorities, and the same is true for intercity employment zones. The [Tamam] 2/9 plan allocates almost no local or inter-regional employment areas in the Arab sector. Of the forty-eight employment zones designated in the master plan, only twelve zones are assigned to the Arab sector, whose population makes up around half of the region’s population.”
C. With regard to population projections and unreasonable restrictions on the expansion of Arab towns and villages, the NCPB was decided, inter alia, that “the appendix of population targets (map and table) and the associated directives will be removed from the plan’s documents. Any expansion greater than 10% […] of the community’s updated land will be based on a comprehensive planning study at the master plan level in which the population targets of the community are examined.” Regarding restrictions on development, it was decided that “the requirement to utilize up to 70% of the number of housing units according to the approved plan prior to approval of expansion […] will be canceled.” It was also decided in this context that the plan’s directives would be amended “in a way that will enable communities surrounded on all sides by land classified in sensitivity [environmental] group 1 and/or 2 to expand, despite the restrictions imposed on development of these lands, and with the approval of the National Council [for Planning and Building].” In addition, the planning institutions were given authority to consider reducing overcrowding by up to 30% (for example, if a community is ranked in one of the three socio-economic clusters 1-3).
The Objection (2001) (Hebrew)
The Decision (Hebrew)