By Shimon Yaish
(JNS/Yisrael Hayom) A Yisrael Hayom review of the some 200 state land tenders featured on the Israel Land Authority website has found that the authority systematically limits tenders for land in Arab communities to “local residents.”
According to ILA policy, in tenders for small communities or communities located in national priority areas, some of the land can be earmarked for existing community members before being offered to the general population. In minority communities, however, up to 100% of land is often earmarked for locals.
Of the 200 current and former tenders Israel Hayom examined, it emerged that in minority communities, tenders for land are limited exclusively to the construction of single-family homes for “locals.” This is true of smaller Arab communities like Deir Hanna, Tuba-Zangariyye, Yanuh-Jat, Kisra-Sumei, but also in the major Arab city of Sakhnin, where the population numbers 30,000.
In contrast, tenders in Jewish communities like Katzir, Poria Illit, Immanuel, Metula and even Savyon are open to any citizen interested in submitting an application to purchase land.
Sources involved in the tender process explained to Israel Hayom that one of the reasons behind the ILA policy on land allocation was to “maintain the status and preserve the character of the Arab communities.”
Jewish buyers have expressed frustration at being restricted from purchasing land in Arab communities, as the tenders are offered solely to minority buyers.
One Jewish buyer argued that “these lands should be offered to everyone, because they are everyone’s. It belongs as much to us as it belongs to those Arab residents. This is infuriating discrimination. Even if there aren’t a lot of Jews who want to live in Arab communities, the state must make this an option. And if it is not an option, they should restrict similar tenders in Jewish communities for locals only.”
“This is quite simply a distorted reality where they can buy everything here and we cannot,” the businessman said. “We don’t understand how it makes sense that they [Arabs] can buy land in [the Jewish communities of] Afula or Nes Ziona and we can’t submit an offer for a tender in Jat. Later, there are even accusations that the Arab population in Israel are discriminated against.”
In a statement, the ILA said it issued land tenders for single-family homes in Sakhnin and in similar communities in the north for locals “with the aim of ensuring the lands would reach local residents without housing, including members of the security forces, and not developers who seek to turn a profit. It should be noted that the allocation of lands by the ILA is done in an egalitarian manner and in accordance with the policies determined by the ILA’s governing council. This policy is consistent with the policies of the government of Israel, its laws and the procedures established in the courts.”
According to the ILA, “The allocation of lands to locals is done in accordance with the provisions of the law for all citizens regardless of nationality, religion, race or gender. But it is natural and self-evident that in Jewish communities, a majority of locals are Jews, and in Arab communities the locals are Arabs. The rate and extent of land allocation to local residents, whether by public tender or in the framework of registration or lotteries, is based on the size of the community, its geographical location, the national priority area to which it belongs, and other characteristics.”
“In small communities with unique characteristics, a large part [of the land] is marketed to locals. The bigger the community, the smaller the percentage of [land] that is marketed to locals. As part of general government policy, the rate of locals in minority communities is higher than the rate of locals in communities that are not minority communities,” the authority explained.