ILA Accused of Bias Against Arabs in Nazareth Tender

Tender sets army service as a precondition for applying; most of Israel's Arabs do not serve in the army.

A tender offering residential plots for a discount in Arab Nazareth has raised the ire of city hall, because it sets army service as a precondition for applying.

Most of Israel's Arabs do not serve in the army.

The tender prompted the Nazareth municipality and a disabled city resident to file a petition against the Israel Lands Authority and the Housing and Construction Ministry last week.

The tender, for plots of land zoned for homes, sets prices tens of percent lower than market value.

It "harms the absolute majority of Nazareth residents who lack housing, since most if not all have not served in the armed forces," states the petition. "This flies in the face of offering equal opportunity to all city residents." In the petition, they call on the court to demand "an explanation as to why [the authorities] won't cancel the requirement that applicants have served in the military."

Under the tender, five plots designated for a total of eight housing units are being offered at discounts of hundreds of thousands of shekels. For instance, one 425-square-meter plot slated for a single-family home has a market value of NIS 401,000, according to the ILA, but it is being offered for only NIS 124,310. Another plot, slated for a duplex and valued at NIS 590,000, according to the ILA, is being sold for NIS 183,000. The plots will be sold by lottery to people who meet the preconditions.

The petitioners are represented by Adalah - the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Nazareth is currently home to 80,000 Muslims and Christians, all Arab. "Most of the city's residents don't serve in the army and won't be eligible to apply," they state.

Even though there are a handful of local residents who volunteer for military service, there are so few of them that the tender results are pretty much predetermined, state the petitioners. "In the meantime, the number of residents lacking housing keeps growing due to the lack of land for construction and the relatively high birthrate," they state.

Over the past two years, the ILA has auctioned off land designated for 1,200 homes, most of them in high-rises. The ILA responded that given how much land it has sold over the past few years, Adalah's petition over eight homes is petty and lacking proportion. "The ILA follows the law and will give its response in court," it said.