Court upholds Jaffa land award; rejects Arabs' appeal

Tender was awarded to Bemuna, a movement committed to creating ideologically active religious Jewish communities in Israeli cities with large Arab populations.

November 8, 2010 04:46
2 minute read.
Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood

ajami neighborhood 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

The question of whether the Israel Lands Authority acted legally in awarding a tender for the development of a plot of land in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood to a company that builds exclusively for religious Jews was an interesting one, but one which the court could not explore because the land has already been leased and the apartments already sold, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote Sunday.

In a unanimous decision, Beinisch and Justices Miriam Naor and Yoram Danziger rejected an appeal by 28 Arab residents of Jaffa, backed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, against the ILA for awarding the tender to Bemuna, a movement committed to creating ideologically active religious Jewish communities in Israeli cities with large Arab populations.

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However, the court rejected the appeal not on the merits of the state’s arguments, but because the awarding of the tender was a “done deal” and the ruling would have been a theoretical one, Beinisch explained.

“The appeal before us raises important question on a series of subjects, including the status of public petitioners in contract law, whether private corporations are subject to the ban on discrimination for reasons of religion or nationality, the extent to which the ILA ought to be supervised regarding how it allocates the lands it leases, and whether it is legal to lease land to groups with special cultural or religious characteristics,” wrote Beinisch.

But this examination would not be carried out in this appeal because of “the concrete circumstances in this case, whereby the deed has already been done and examining it would only be theoretical,” she wrote.

The project in question involves 20 apartments for religious-Zionist families in the former “Etrog Market” in Ajami.

Sunday’s decision is likely the final judicial action in the affair which began on May 7, 2009, when the ILA awarded the tender to Bemuna. Arab residents petitioned the Tel Aviv District Administrative Court the following month against the ILA’s decision, arguing that the stipulation that apartments in the project be available only to religious Jews discriminated against them.

The court refused to deal with the petition on the grounds that it lacked the authority to do so.

The petitioners appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which ruled in their favor and sent the matter back to the administrative court for a ruling. This time the court rejected the petition.

Immediately after the ruling, the ILA closed the deal with Bemuna. The religious nationalist development company paid all the money for the land to the ILA and the ILA signed the lease.

Meanwhile, the petitioners appealed against the lower court decision to the Supreme Court. On Sunday, Beinisch told them they were too late.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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