Legal petition: discontinue contractual agreement between INPA and the Elad Foundation

On July 2, 2018, Emek Shaveh petitioned the Administrative Affairs Court to obligate the Israel Nature Parks Authority (INPA) to discontinue  their partnership with the Elad Foundation at the City of David. Emek Shaveh submitted the petition following illegal construction at the site. Over the last two years, the Elad Foundation has been building various structures without a license or a building permit. In the management agreement between the INPA and Elad, both sides are committed not to violate the law. In light of these construction violations, the INPA, which is duty bound to serve the public interest, must suspend the management contract with Elad. The petition was submitted since they failed to do so.

In 2012, the High Court of Justice permitted the INPA to contract the Elad Foundation to manage the City of David archaeological site leaving the INPA in the role of administrator and supervisor (HCJ 10/5031 Ir Amim et al.). In practice, it seems that the Elad Foundation was given a free hand in operating the City of David site, and built there illegally.  The INPA for its part, has turned a blind eye and has failed to fulfill its supervisory role. Despite the fact that there is no existing master plan for the City of David’s visitor center, and building permits were never issued, the Elad Foundation has been illegally building offices, shops, a second floor above the shops and a donor wall; parts of the construction are extensions of existing illegal structures, and other parts are entirely new. Emek Shaveh’s repeated complaints to the INPA have not brought these construction projects to a halt, even though these activities are contrary to Elad’s commitment in its agreement with the INPA to “not take any action that is contrary to law”.

In a previous petition submitted by Att. Itay Mack on behalf of Emek Shaveh to the High Court against the closure of public spaces in the City of David (HCJ 15/5903),  the attorney general accepted Emek Shaveh’s claim that the gates and fences in various areas of the site were placed illegally without a building permit.

Emek Shaveh’s Freedom of Information Requests to the INPA reveal that over the past six years the INPA and Elad held only a number of meetings, with discussions limited to specific topics such as creating walking paths, developing audiovisual displays and other attractions. For the most part, the Elad Foundation proposed plans and the INPA approved them. Based on the information received, there is no record of any meetings about issues related to the management of the site.

The court has explicitly ruled that a government authority cannot maintain a contractual agreement with private parties who violate the law. The blatant violation of the rule of law and the failure to implement a mechanism that protects the public interest have led us to request that the court annul the contractual agreement between the INPA and the Elad Foundation. Even if at times, public opinion accepts illegal and even criminal behavior, it is the court’s role to prevent such conduct.