Ariel mayor Ron Nachman.
Ariel mayor Ron Nachman. Photo by Yuval Tebol
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The message Ariel's Mayor Ron Nachman and the Ariel municipality have been trying to stress over the past few months regarding the refusal of some artists to appear at the city's new cultural center because it is not within Israel, is that the residents of Ariel are Israeli citizens just like anywhere else.

Therefore, Nachman says, actors should not balk at appearing in the city because it is over the Green Line in the West Bank.

However, it has recently come to light that in 2001, the municipality of Ariel petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court against the tax authorities to return the Value Added Tax it paid between 1994 and 1998, arguing that it is not part of Israel according to the law, because "the Ariel Local Council and the municipality, composed of residents of the region, convenes in the region and is managed from Ariel," and the city is not governed from Israel.

The municipality said in the petition that past tax payments on its part were "a mistake."

This stand seems to contradict Nachman's statement on opening night at the cultural center: "The thousands of residents of Ariel will also have the right to culture - as all citizens of Israel," and that its "tax-paying" residents should not be culturally boycotted.

In rejecting the petition in 2007, the court stated that Ariel's claim "to differentiate itself from other local councils, only to create a tax rebate," was "hardly appropriate," and noting that the local council is in fact subservient to all Israeli administrative laws.

The court also wrote that Ariel is required to obey these laws, in addition to its obligation to fairness and good faith, especially as it is "nourished by state funding and accepts the laws of the state, seeking the state's protection by means of the security fence."

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ) said that when actors refuse to appear in Ariel because it is not part of Israel they are criticized because the city is said to be Israeli for all intents and purposes, but "when it comes to taxes Ariel has to pay, then it's not in Israel. It seems the truth in Ariel is highly flexible."

Nachman said the petition had been "sophisticated" and that it had wanted the court to determine that Ariel was in Israel. "We had nothing to lose. If we won, we'd get money. If we lost, it would be determined that we are part of the state."