Justice Ministry won't cancel controversial Jaffa land award

Public tender won by Bemuna, a construction company building projects with the express intention of beefing up the Jewish population there.

The Justice Ministry will not intervene to cancel the results of a public tender that awarded land in Jaffa to a construction company planning to build apartments exclusively for the religious-Zionist community, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) revealed on Wednesday. The land was awarded to Bemuna, a construction company that is building projects in mixed cities such as Ramle, Lod and Acre with the express intention of beefing up the Jewish population there. In a letter to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz protesting the ILA decision, ACRI wrote, "the Israel Lands Authority is obliged to honor the constitutional right to equality and to act itself in an egalitarian manner. Therefore, it must not allocate public land to a third party that discriminates." In response, Justice Ministry attorney Ariel Zvi wrote that "after examining the concrete circumstances in this case, we did not find reason to intervene, because the land had been offered in tender twice before without any response, because the [Bemuna] construction company offered the highest bid and because the project involves a relatively small number of housing units." However, Zvi added that the question of whether the ILA should be allowed to grant land to a company that intends to market the housing in a discriminatory way "is a very serious one." He wrote that on the one hand, there was the matter of discrimination. On the other, there was the question of whether the ILA could be held responsible for overseeing how the land purchaser used the land. "As a result, the Justice Ministry has decided to consider the possibility, from now on, in certain kinds of tenders, of demanding of those applying for the tender to declare that they will not discriminate against anyone when they market the land," wrote Zvi. While the Justice Ministry has refused to intervene in the sale, ACRI has also petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court to cancel the awarding of the land. The district court threw the petition out, but the organization appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, asking it to order the district court to consider the petition. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has issued an interim injunction prohibiting any more work on the disputed land.