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Petition Accepted - Opposition to the Outline Zoning Plan for the Village of Wadi Al Na’am

Residents of Wadi Alna’am
Photo by Sana Ibn Bari, ACRI

Wadi Al Na’am, which houses over 10,000 residents, is the largest unrecognized village in the Negev. It was formed in the 50’s, when the state authorities and military relocated residents - Bedouin citizens - from their historic lands to the area of the village as it is today, as part of a policy to concentrate Arab residents and Bedouin in the Sayag area of the Negev. Since then, the village residents have invested in the development of their living space, which has become a functioning village - despite the lack of recognition from the state, lack of basic services, and the constant threat of removal and destruction of homes.

Ever since 1987, the village residents have been in contact with state authorities in order to establish a rural-agricultural village, fit for their needs, traditions and way of living. Time and time again, the state tries to force upon them unfit “solutions.” Throughout the years, the residents’ appeals have fallen on deaf ears, and all they were offered was to be removed, despite their opposition, to the town of Segev Shalom, which is not fit to their needs and way of living.

On November 3, 2020, ACRI and Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights filed an opposition to local outlining zoning plan no. 699-0669481 for the village of Wadi Alna’am, on behalf of the village representatives. We argued that this plan discriminates against the residents of Wadi Alna’am in comparison to the Jewish population, and violates their residential rights for equality, health, home, dignity, and the right of Israeli-born populations to maintain their culture and way of living.

In opposition, we claimed that similarly to former plans, this outline zoning plan also ignores the desires of the village residents regarding the planning of the village’s nature and future borders. The proposed location is again bordering the town of Segev Shalom, and 70-80% of the residents will be forced to leave their homes and relocate due to the building restrictions in the Naot Hovev area. The proposed settlement is also urban or suburban in nature, which will prevent the residents from fulfilling their rural, agricultural and communal lifestyle.

We argued that the plan and the decision to approve it were not based on facts on the ground (such as the size of the population and its expected growth), and that not all relevant issues were taken into consideration and planned out. For example, the location and borders of the planned village were dictated by the radius of the environmental limitations of the Naot Hovev industrial area, despite the fact that ever since 2004 there has not been an updated assessment of the environmental health effects of the area.

We insisted that the success and degree of implementation of the plan is dependent on the agreement and cooperation of the residents. We mentioned that there had previously been such approved plans in the Negev that had failed to be implemented and did not effectively yield development, and that advancing the plan at all costs without the support of residents would lead to an unimplementable plan.

On April 8, 2021, the opposition was rejected and the plan was approved.

On April 26, 2021, we addressed the chairman of the District Planning and Building Committee with a request for permission to appeal to the National Planning and Building Committee against the decision to reject the objection. We reiterated our argument that the plan was promoted without cooperation with the residents, and that it did not meet their needs in terms of residence and livelihood.

On June 10, 2021, ACRI filed an administrative petition in the Be'er Sheva Administrative Court on behalf of 32 of the residents, requesting that they be given permission to appeal to the National Planning and Building Council, or alternatively determine that the plan is void in light of the administrative flaws in its approval process and its violations of human rights. Among other things, they argued that according to the tests of the ruling, the chairman of the district committee should have given the petitioners permission to appeal - both because the plan raises issues of principle, and because it has broad implications and special public sensitivity.

On July 31, 2022, the court accepted the petition, and determined that the residents could appeal against the approval of the plan to the National Planning and Construction Council. The court severely criticized the manner in which the authorities enforced the building restrictions, stating that the restrictions were set without up-to-date data and in contradiction to the data presented.

On August 29, 2022, we submitted an appeal to the National Planning and Building Council against the master plan for Wadi Al Na'am on behalf of 32 of the residents. Among other things, we argued that the plan's premise regarding the radius of restrictions from Ramat Hovav is erroneous and not factually based, and that the plan violates the rights of the village's residents to dignity, equality, property and shelter, and was promoted without cooperation with them.

On March 1, 2023, the appeal was rejected by the Appeals Subcommittee of the National Planning and Building Council. The committee accepted the argument that the Ministry of Health's air pollution tests, which will determine the radius of the restrictions, should be completed, but nevertheless it approved the master plan for Wadi Al Na'am within its current borders, without waiting for the results of the tests.

On April 24, 2023, we filed an administrative petition against the decision of the Appeals Subcommittee. We asked the court to declare the master plan null and void, or to order that the validity of the plan be suspended until the examinations are completed. Together with the petition, we filed a request for an interim injunction and asked to freeze the master plan until the petition is decided. The request was denied. On October 10, 2023, the petition was also rejected.

On January 29, 2024, we filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. We asked to cancel the ruling of the Administrative Court and cancel or suspend the master plan for Wadi Al Na'am until the completion of the air pollution and odor hazard inspections, which are expected to be completed in July 2024, and until the completion of the inspections to reduce the radius of building restrictions.



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