The High Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that a decadeold petition to block the Israel Lands Authority’s attempted preferential treatment of Israel Salt Industries Ltd. had “achieved its goals.”
The favoritism would have translated into more than NIS 100 million in value.
The court awarded NIS 50,000 each to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and an NGO that filed the petition.
The NIS 100,000 represented costs and attorney fees for the authority and for the Movement for Quality of Government in Israel, which fought the improper preference, including rezoning salt flats in Atlit and Eilat, over 10 years of legal battles.
After years of the petitioners blocking the deal by obtaining a freeze and an interim order from the court, the state finally reversed its approval of the deal on July 21, 2013.
Though the court presented its final findings on Thursday, the petitioners had mostly won their battle when the state backed off.
The courts found that the petitioners exposed “failures in the conduct of the ILA and state agencies” and caused the state to “formulate general policies for granting” the special kinds of land rights in question.
The deal had loopholes, including the fact that most of the valuable land that the ILA was giving would not be used for developing salt-related resources, but would have benefited ISI, the court said.
The court said that the petitioners had raised the issue with the proper authorities before seeking legal intervention, but were ignored.
The Holyland trial may confirm the petitioners’ objection to the ISI deal as unreasonable.
Some of the defendants with connections to ISI are accused of bribing various state authorities to secure the deal.
In the Holyland case, former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner is one of 16 defendants accused of bribing an aide of now-deceased state witness Shmuel Duchner.
The aide, Meir Rabin, is related to Yaakov Efrati, then director of the ILA. The alleged bribe was supposedly intended to obtain favorable treatment for ISI, of which Dankner was chairman.
In October 2013, Dankner admitted to paying Rabin to help him navigate the maze of public obstacles to ISI projects, but said he wanted help in handling the issue legally and denied that the payments were bribes.