• ISRAEL \ Jul 08, 2002
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    Government backs bill to allot state land only to Jews
Government backs bill to allot state land only to Jews The government decided yesterday to support a bill proposed by MK Haim Druckman (National Religious Party) that would enable state land to be apportioned for Jewish use only. The government decided to accept an appeal submitted by Education Minister Limor Livnat, who asked to overturn a recommendation against Druckman's proposal that was submitted by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

Druckman formulated his proposal in response to the High Court of Justice's landmark decision in the Katzir case, holding that Israeli Arabs have rights to live on a communal settlement located on state land. Druckman's proposal to annul the thrust of the Katzir ruling empowers the Jewish Agency to allocate land "in accordance with its goals," that is, to establish exclusively Jewish communities.

Livnat claimed at yesterday's government meeting that Druckman's bill had been drafted not to circumvent the High Court, but rather "to supplement it."

A five-judge High Court panel reached the Katzir decision in March 2000, by a four to one vote. The decision held that the state cannot discriminate between Arabs and Jews in the distribution of land resources, even if the allocation is done by the Jewish Agency, and not by the Israel Lands Administration.

The Court approved a request submitted by Adel and Iman Ka'adan, asking for the right to purchase a plot and build a home in the Katzir communal settlement. Katzir was established within the Green line in 1982 by the Jewish Agency - the fact that the Agency explicitly deals with Jewish settlements in Eretz Israel, and that Katzir's communal association only accepts Jewish members, stopped Israeli Arabs from building in the community, even though its land belongs to the state (via the Israel Lands Administration).

The Ka'adan family petitioned the High Court in 1995, in conjunction with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The couple claimed that the Jewish Agency's land policy was illegal, since it discriminates against Israeli Arabs.

The one dissenting judge in the Katzir ruling, Justice Yaacov Kedmi, agreed that the state has no right to discriminate against Arabs on state lands; but Kedmi found that the Jewish Agency, an institution formed to promote Jewish-Zionist settlement in Israel, has the right to decide who can benefit from its resources.

Enforcement of the Court's ruling in favor of the Ka'adans in the Katzir case was bogged down by red tape; and ACRI last April petitioned the Court, asking it to rule that the ILA was in contempt for not abiding by the anti-discrimination ruling.

The government also approved yesterday the intifada compensation law, which is designed to forestall compensation claims submitted by Palestinians for damages sustained as a result of Israel Defense Force activity in the territories. Minister Dan Meridor opposed the proposed intifada law.

After the government meeting, members of the Ministerial Legislation Committee met and finalized formulations of the intifada law, prior to its submission to the Knesset. The bill holds that "a person who numbers among the enemies of the state, or is a resident of a region in conflict," cannot submit compensation claims against Israel.