Can Ramle mayor become ILA head? High Court to decide

Attorney for the State: Lavi's anti-Arab comments make him unsuitable to head the Israel Lands Authority.

high court 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
high court 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The High Court of Justice discussed a petition on Wednesday filed by the mayor of Ramle, Yoel Lavi, who was disqualified by the attorney-general as a candidate to head the Israel Lands Administration even though he was the housing minister's first choice. The court said it would hand down its ruling on the petitioner's request for a show-cause order later. Recently, Vice Premier Haim Ramon blasted Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz for "interfering" in a matter that should be the concern of the minister. In his petition, Lavi said Mazuz should not have issued an opinion and also took issue with his findings. Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim appointed a search committee to recommend candidates for the job. The committee came up with three names - Lavi, Yaron Bibi and Aryeh Bar. At the minister's request, the committee did not grade the choices or describe them individually. It said in general that it was impressed by their professional experience, expertise in land matters and ability to manage large systems. Following the search committee's decision, reports emerged in the media that Boim intended to appoint Lavi. In the wake of these reports, Arab and human rights groups and watchdog organizations complained to Mazuz that Lavi was unworthy of the job. Mazuz investigated the complaints and concluded that Lavi should not be appointed. He issued a formal opinion on April 13 in which he said that the minister must not bring Lavi's candidacy to the cabinet and the government must not approve it. The opinion was based on three criteria: the fact that Lavi was clearly politically affiliated, that he was being investigated by police on suspicion of corruption, and that he had made unacceptable anti-Arab statements. During the hearing, Lavi strongly denied the allegations. He said that neither Boim nor the search committee had proposed him for the job because of his political ties. As for the police investigation, the allegations against him had been made by the municipal comptroller who himself had been forced to suspend himself. Furthermore, he had not been indicted. As for his anti-Arab comments, Lavi told the court he had immediately apologized for having made at least one of them. This comment came in response to demands by Arab residents in the mainly Arab Old Town of Ramle to change the name of streets with Jewish connotations to Arab names. Lavi said then, "We will not harm the legacy of the Zionist movement because someone comes to live on Rehov Hama'apilim [named after illegal Jewish immigrants to Mandatory Palestine]. If he doesn't like it, let him live in Jaljulya [a West Bank town near Kalkilya], which is an Arab name? What's this all about? Why should we change the name? Just because some Jamal wants to change the name or because some Muhammad wants to change the name. Let him change his god instead. What do they want? Let them all go to hell." Asked about this comment after Wednesday's High Court hearing, Lavi told The Jerusalem Post, "The matter of the statements I have made and the work I have carried out over 15 years have to be properly balanced and put in the right proportion. The Arab population of Ramle is very satisfied with the reforms I have conducted, with the basket of services they receive, with their status in the city and with how we deal with their requests." The state's representative, attorney Dana Briskman, said Lavi's comments made him unsuitable to head the Israel Lands Authority, which deals with the sensitive issue of fairness in allocating one of the country's most precious resources.