The High Court of Justice last week came down strongly on the side of the Israeli public and against special interest groups that want to use a huge amount of state-owned land for profit.
In two decisions, the Court ruled that state-owned agricultural land that had been used by kibbutzim and moshavim for decades with the government’s blessing, cannot now be used by them for other purposes such as housing developments, and that they cannot profit from such use.
“This land – 87% of the land in Israel which is now used by only eight percent of the population – is a public asset, like gas and air,” said Adv. Revital Brilenshtein, director of the tiny Association for Distributive Justice (ADJ,) a longtime NIF grantee.
One of the High Court rulings put a stop to the many claims brought to lower courts by kibbutzim, moshavim and regional councils that are trying to assert ownership of the land. The other ruled against the case brought by five regional councils and the Center of Regional Councils, which asked the court to nullify the 36 countrywide geographic border committees that Interior Minister Aryeh Deri had appointed in order to ensure more equality in land use. Brilenshtein told the Orthodox financial web site, Bizzness, “It’s natural that the regional councils should oppose this. They are like the cats guarding the cream.
“The government claims there is not enough money for education, health and housing, while it is sitting on this huge asset,” she told NIF News. “The high court stood up for the public’s interest and declared it belongs to the public.
“I welcome these important decisions. They safeguard the public interest and protect the weaker geographic areas. We hope the High Court will continue to safeguard the principle of equality and distributive justice.”
The ADJ is a key player in the Shatil-coordinated Lands Forum, gets intensive guidance from Shatil and collaborates with it on many initiatives.
“Shatil plays an important role in helping us,” said Brilenshtein. “They insisted, for example, that I send out a press release despite the fact that one of these court decisions was reached late on a Thursday (when everyone is preparing for the weekend – ed.)”