Jewish Group to Sue Lands Authority over Jaffa Sale Freeze
BeEmunah, a non-profit organization that provides housing for the national-religious public, intends to sue the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) for damage it has suffered as a result of the ILA’s decision to freeze the sale of a plot in Yafo (Jaffa). News1 reported that B’Emunah won the tender for the purchase of the plot three months ago and has since completed the sale of all 20 apartments that are to be built upon it.
The ILA froze the deal on June 11, after a group of Arabs from Yafo announced its opposition to the sale of the plot, which is located at the corner of Pelet and HaEtrog streets in the neighborhood of Ajami, whose residents are Arabs.
The ILA’s Tenders Committee decided to sell the plot to BeEmunah, which is headed by Yisrael Ze’irah, on May 6, for NIS 2.24 million. BeEmunah subsequently received a formal notification that it had won the tender. Twelve of the apartments had already been purchased from BeEmunah before it won the tender and the remaining eight were sold afterwards.
According to News1, the organized nature of the group purchase lowered the price of the individual apartments. Still, buyers each paid about NIS 1 million for a four-room apartment.
The Arabs who opposed the deal filed a motion with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa District Court, asking for an injunction against the sale. The Court Vice President, Jude Yehuda Zaft, denied their request on June 23. Despite this ruling, however, the ILA did not reverse its earlier decision to freeze the sale.
The Arab group appealed the decision before the Supreme Court, which issued an ex parte temporary injunction against the deal on July 6 (an ex parte decision is taken in the presence of one side only, without hearing the other side).
BeEmunah filed a detailed response to the injunction Friday in which it asks that the injunction be denied and that the petitioners be charged with the cost of the defendant’s legal fees.
Attorney David Ze’irah said that the group intends to sue the ILA and to demand compensation for the damage it incurred. The nature of the lawsuit will depend on the Supreme Court’s decision, he added.
BeEmunah’s affidavit to the court says that:
- The petitioners have no connection to the deal.
- They did not take part in the tender and did not participate in two previous tenders for the same plot.
- The petition was filed too late. The petitioners know that the plot has been put on sale twice before.
- BeEmunah and the apartment purchasers will lose millions of shekels if the deal is canceled, while the Arabs will not suffer such losses.
BeEmunah notes that the Supreme Court itself ruled several years ago that an Arab has the right to buy a plot and build a home in an all-Jewish community (Katzir). This being so, it asks – why can’t Jews buy a plot in an Arab community?
According to a Haaretz report from June 17, a second tender planned in Ajami was cancelled as well, because authorities "feared riots." According to this report, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai also interceded on behalf of the Yafo Arabs, and wrote the ILA a letter in which he said: "Even though we understand the process was legal, and that there is no room in a democratic country to place restrictions on the purchase of land, I would like to remind you that in the past, we expressed our opposition to [this] land being sold on the open market."