The Tel Aviv District Court has dismissed a petition against a tender by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality for an affordable housing project for the Arab population of Jaffa (Yafo) only. The project in question consists of 28 housing units on Michelangelo Street in Jaffa.
The petitioners argued that the conditions for participation in the project were determined according to a discriminatory ethnic criterion, in that registration for the project was open only to Muslim or Christian Arab residents of Jaffa, and not to other sections of the population of Jaffa who are citizens of the state.
The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality responded that the petition had been filed over a decade after the decision to sell the land for housing for the benefit of the Arab population of Jaffa only had been made. The Municipality further responded that "given the extent of municipal housing solutions for the public in general, the decision to allocate a certain number of affordable housing units to the Arab population of Jaffa is not a discriminatory decision," and that "the opposite is the case - it represents a just and necessary action to promote equality."
Judge Hadas Ovadia decided to dismiss the petition, mainly because of the delay in filing it and the money and effort invested in the project in the meanwhile and the progress made with it.
She did however also comment on the claim of discrimination, and found that the local authority did have the right to act to promote equality through preferential treatment, and that this was not illegal discrimination. She also found that the law recognized the power of the authority to take into consideration the affinity of a person to his place of residence and his community, and that this could be a relevant criterion in allocating land resources, in a way that might sometimes justify making a distinction between residents of a place and the rest of the citizens of the state, without that being illegal discrimination.
The judge said that the combination of the two criteria set for eligibility for the project, namely positive discrimination and preference to local residents, together with the size of the project, and the delay in filing the petition, meant that there were no grounds for cancelling or changing the Municipality's decision, just before the lottery for apartments in the project was about to take place.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 27, 2021
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