MK Ahmad Tibi’s threat to stymie Israel Water Authority’s budget forces official decision to relinquish northern land to Kfar Manda Arabs
According to a report published in Israel Hayom on Monday, a threat issued by MK Ahmad Tibi led to the State of Israel relinquishing land overtaken by Arabs residing in the village of Manda in northern Israel.
The issue is reported to have begun in the 1960s, when the State of Israel expropriated unsettled land in the vicinity of the northern village of Kfar Manda to enable the construction of the National Water Carrier. However, the land was never registered properly in the Land Registry Office nor was it expropriated as required by law. Over time, village residents took over the land for agricultural and other purposes.
The Israel Water Authority recently decided to dig in its heels and submitted expropriation injunctions for the land. Kfar Manda residents responded angrily and were unmoved by the fact that the land is state-owned and earmarked for strategic facilities. Council head Munas Abed Alhalim took matters into his own hands and demanded that the Israel Water Authority take immediate steps to cancel the expropriation process. At the same time, he enlisted the aid of MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List), who began to exert pressure to transfer the land to the local residents.
MK Tibi approached Water Authority head Giora Shaham and threatened to hold up the Authority’s budget in the course of the ongoing election period during which the Knesset Finance Committee convenes only rarely. This is far from an empty threat, and it did indeed achieve the complainants’ goal, which stands in glaring contradiction to the interests of the State of Israel.
Sources closely acquainted with the story are quoted in the report as saying: “Tibi threatened to jam the Water Authority’s budget if it refrained from appearing at the hearing, forcing Shaham to run to the Knesset and state that the land was not needed so it could be handed over to the complainants.”
It is to be noted that this decision is unprecedented, as the expropriation of land in the State of Israel holds serious security and political ramifications. State authorities, including the Department of Justice, the Ministry of Finance and the Israel Lands Authority, all expressed shock at the development.