Court favors right-wing group on City of David park

Ruling ends three-year legal battle from left-wing organization to stop agreement between Elad and National Parks Authority.

City of David 521 (photo credit: Courtesy City of David)
City of David 521
(photo credit: Courtesy City of David)
The High Court of Justice dismissed a petition to stop the Ir David Foundation from operating the City of David Archeological Park outside Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, concluding a three-year legal saga.
The Ir Amim organization filed the petition in July 2010, alleging that the contract between the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the private Ir David organization was illegal because the area is a national park and should be public.
Ir Amim charged that Ir David’s political agenda meant it was ignoring the Arab history of the site, and that this created a conflict of interest.
In October, the High Court ruled that the contract between the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Ir David could continue with some changes, clarifying that major decisions are the responsibility of the INPA but the day-to-day operations are run by Ir David.
With the court’s dismissal of the petition on Monday, Ir David and the INPA will sign a new three-year contract.
Changes in the new contract include provisions that allow non-Ir David Foundation guides to operate inside the park and a clarification of the respective responsibilities of INPA and Ir David.
Additionally, the text of the contract between INPA and Ir David was revealed during the legal proceedings. Previously, the contract had been secret; it was revealed as a result of the court case, Ir Amim director Yehudit Oppenheimer said in October.
The City of David Park, located south of the Temple Mount, contains archeological ruins from the First Temple period.
The park has long been a source of tension between the Ir David Foundation and the Arab residents of the Silwan neighborhood, who say it encroaches on their land. Ir David supports Jewish residents in the predominantly Arab neighborhood in addition to developing the archeological site.
Ir David Foundation spokesman Udi Ragones said he was not surprised that the court denied the petition.
“We knew the contract was fine,” he said, adding that the petition was part of a delegitimization campaign from left-wing organizations and he expected to face additional legal challenges from Ir Amim.
Ir Amim said it was disappointed that the court had not terminated the contract between INPA and Ir David, but hailed the case as a positive step because some of Ir David’s powers at the site were reduced.
“We will continue to monitor to ensure the precise implementation of the ruling and will utilize all legal means at our disposal to work against the transfer of authority at the City of David to Elad’s [the Ir David Foundation’s] control without a tender and without proper procedures, with great harm to the population living in the area,” Ir Amim said on Monday.
The City of David site receives around 450,000 visitors a year, up from 2,000 in 2001, according to Ragones.
The site is part of the national park surrounding the Old City Walls, which was established in 1974 by the Interior Ministry and encompasses 110 hectares (about 270 acres).