A furious debate erupted Tuesday in the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee over a plan to transfer land from the Jewish town of Moshav Beit Hananya in the Haifa area to the nearby Arab town of Jisr a-Zarka.
MK Yariv Levin (Likud) was among a group of MKs that called for Tuesday’s discussion of the issue. He argued that what Jisr a-Zarka needs is not more land, but better management.
“This plan sets a dangerous precedent of using agricultural land to expand the jurisdiction of Arab municipalities while they aren’t willing to encourage other solutions. This will encourage other municipalities to take the same approach, and will deal a serious blow to agriculture,” he argued.
He noted that officials in Jisr a-Zarka had rejected the idea of addressing the town’s housing crisis by building tall apartment buildings rather than low-level homes.
His comment angered MK Hanin Zoabi of the Arab nationalist Balad party, who replied, “Do they build tall buildings in Beit Hananya? Show me where they build tall buildings, and then you can say that in Jirs a-Zarka they should build tall buildings!”
MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) said, “There is no Arab town on Highway 6 that didn’t have lands expropriated. From what is left of their land, more was taken. It’s good that you feel what we’ve felt this whole time.”
The head of Jisr a-Zarka expressed frustration as well. “You created a conflict with your own hands!” he told the head of the Hof Carmel regional council. “The state needs to solve Jisr a-Zarka’s problem!”
“Jisr a-Zarka has dropped to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. It’s a powder keg. If no solutions are provided to the housing crisis and the crowding, the powder keg will explode,” he warned.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) voiced strong opposition. “When a guest is in my home, I give him respect. As long as they understand who is the host, and who is the guest, everything is fine.”
“This debate is about national rights, not individual rights,” he continued. “We have to speak the truth: this is our land, not yours. You are guests. The minute that you are guests, you deserve every individual right. But when it becomes a national struggle – you do not deserve anything.”
Feiglin clarified his stance further, “If this were about transferring Jewish land to a Jewish village, I would agree, but if it were an Arab village, I would not. It’s a nationalist thing.”
His statements caused outrage among Arab MKs. “You’re a racist. You’re simply a racist,” accused MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad).
Zoabi said, “We don’t feel like guests, or refugees… The reason we are angry is that we are treated like guests.”
“You oppose any proposal to expand Jisr,” she continued. “You proposed just one solution – to build taller buildings within the town. Meaning, more crowding.”
MK David Azoulay (Shas) called on those arguing to take their debate elsewhere. “That debate does not belong here. The subject here is a technical matter,” he said.
He called on the Haifa regional planning committee to hear the case, and to listen closely to representatives from both towns.