Israel's Attorney General Probing Jaffa Housing Lottery Meant for Arabs Only

Lottery aims to provide more affordable housing for Jaffa's Arab residents by auctioning off apartments at below-market prices

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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A street in Jaffa, this week.
A street in Jaffa, this week.Credit: Eyal Toueg
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

An official is examining on behalf of the attorney general the legality of plans by Tel Aviv to hold a lottery for the sale of property in Jaffa at below-market prices exclusively to Arabs, Haaretz has learned.

The Justice Ministry has asked the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality’s legal adviser Uzi Salman to detail the terms of the planned lottery, in particular the criteria that limit participation to “an Arab of the Muslim or Christian religion.” Haaretz has learned that the office of the attorney general has begun an investigation into the legality of allocating land in the city according to racial and religious characteristics.

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The lottery aims to provide more affordable housing for Jaffa’s Arab population by auctioning off 28 apartments at a 30% discount to the market price. The deadline for applying is June 21. Participation is limited to Arabs who have lived in the city for at least three years, have at least one child and do not currently own a home.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry confirmed that the attorney general was inquiring into the legality of the matter and that the city had not consulted him in advance. Two months ago, the Tel Aviv District Court had ordered the city to reconsider the criteria for affordable housing lotteries in general to prevent discrimination. The lotteries now bar participants who are age 45 or over and impose stringent income requirements.

The municipality declined a Haaretz request for a copy of the legal opinion by Salman and would not even confirm that he had written one, but it defended the lottery’s legality.

“In accordance with a ruling by the High Court of Justice granting preference in housing to populations with a particular cultural identity in a location where it is needed in order to enable them to maintain their way of life does not constitute prohibited discrimination,” the city said. “The unique characteristics of the Jaffa real estate market make it difficult for the next generation of Arab residents to continue living in Jaffa. Therefore, granting certain housing preferences is needed for the sake of preserving the way of life of the Arab community.”

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