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Volume 44, January 2008

Following Adalah’s Petition, State Rescinds Decision to Appropriate around 900 Dunams of Land Belonging to Arab Citizens of Israel in Daliyat al-Carmel

On 14 January 2008, the Haifa District Court held a hearing on a petition filed by Adalah on 21 October 2007 on behalf of 24 Arab citizens of Israel from Daliyat al-Carmel demanding the cancellation of the master plan for a “National Park and Har Shukiv Forest”. The master plan entails the joining of the petitioners’ land to the area of the aforementioned park, thereby preventing the future development of the area.

At the hearing, the state announced its decision to rescind the appropriation of 27 of 36 plots of land that had been designated for the aforementioned national park. Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara, representing the petitioners, objected to the continued appropriation of the nine remaining plots of land, but the court ordered the parties to negotiate in order to come to an agreement in this regard. According to the court’s decision, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, Adalah can return to court.

Following the hearing, Attorney Bishara stated that, “Even today we have been able to make a significant legal achievement as a result of the popular and legal struggles. The petition that we submitted demonstrates that the appropriation of this land was arbitrary. We believe that the court’s decision that negotiations must be held with the Attorney General’s Office over the remaining land represents further progress. However, if we are unable to reach a positive agreement at the negotiating table through which the remaining land will be returned, we shall continue to pursue the case before the court.”

The petition was filed against the National Council for Planning and Building, the Authority for Nature Reserves and National Parks, and the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

The master plan was drafted in 2002 and covers large areas of land around Daliyat al-Carmel, an Arab Druze village in the north of Israel surrounded by nature reserves and national parks. The implementation of the master plan would therefore render the future development of Daliyat al-Carmel extremely difficult, except in the western part of the area, which consists of privately-owned land.

The petitioners argued that the owners of the land have been cultivating it since before the establishment of the State of Israel and that the land contains no national resources to justify its appropriation. Therefore, the explanations provided in the master plan are essentially void and there is no logic behind the declaration of the land as a national park or forest.

The petitioners emphasized that none of the local, regional or national master plans previously prepared for the area have declared these lands a nature reserve or national park. Rather, the lands were excluded in order that they would be put to the future use of the development of Daliyat al-Carmel and in order to prevent any violation of the rights of the landowners.

Furthermore, the master plan is inconsistent with the National Parks and Nature Reserves Law (1998), argued the petitioners, and the Authority for Nature Reserves and National Parks and the JNF do not have the power to draw up this plan. Adalah stressed that, “The objective of this master plan is to preclude the development of Daliyat al-Carmel on the land owned by its population, and violates their property rights and their right to a livelihood.”

Haifa District Court, A.P. 4377/07, Maqaldah Safi, et al. v. The National Council for Planning and Building (pending)