In a meeting called for by Mr. Majed Abu Yunes and a group of land owners in Sakhnin, and attended by MK Muhammad Barakeh, MK. Dr. Hanna Swaid, Mr. Nahed Kahezem; the mayor of Shafaamer, Mr.Raja Khatib; the head of Deir Hanna Local Council, Mr. Ali Saleh; the chief engineer of Kokab Abu El Heja Local Council, and Mr. Said Nassar; the chief engineer of Arrabah Local Council, a consultation discussion was held in the office of ACAP in Eilaboun. The aim of the urgent meeting was to familiarize the relevant parties with the latest developments regarding the several forest establishment plans that have been recently announced.
On behalf of ACAP, Ms. Enaya Bann-Jeries, an urban planner, presented a thorough description of the recently released forest plans which included: Har Azmon forest 15320/C, Har Shkhenya forest 15056/C, Shkhenya forest 15453/C, and Shafaamer forest 16130/C ( see the attached map). In her presentation about the emergence of a “wave” of forest establishment plan submission in the north, Banna-Jeries asserted that it was imperative for the Arab local authorities and citizens to beware and monitor these developments so that they can take action and submit their objections within the permitted period of time allotted for this purpose, in order to avoid further indirect confiscation of what’s left of Arab land; taking into consideration that the total size of the targeted land approximates 33,000 Dunams.
Banna-Jeries also described the vital role ACAP played in alerting the relevant local authorities and providing them with the necessary information and details pertinent to these plans; asserting ACAP’s readiness to accompany these local authorities professionally to counteract these forest plans.
Similarly, MK Dr. Hanna Swaid presented a detailed description of the legal and political implications of these plans indicating that these plans are actually a practical translation of previous national plans submitted in the 80s which did not enable the councils or the citizens to express any objections about national plans. Dr. Swaid asserted that this present period enables people to object to such plans and that this opportunity should be utilized and wisely used by the harmed Arab local authorities and the citizens who are urged to submit their objections in order to limit the damage these plans will yield.
Dr. Swaid has also remarked that the present plan for the open green areas bordering the Arab localities is actually a future plan for “open” areas for settlement and Judaiazation projects. Building on this fact, Dr. Swaid asserted the need to beware, stay alert and to work persistently on objecting to these plans. Further, he discussed the importance of distancing forest areas from residential areas in Arab localities in order to provide a space for potential future expansion capacity, and to preserve safety for these residential areas to limit the damage of natural disasters like fire in the forests for example.
MK Muhammad Barakeh called for providing a clear address for each local authority so that the citizens can know whom to turn to for information about these plans, and to compile and concentrate all the objections from each local council so that they can be submitted collectively. He also urged the local authorities to undertake the responsibility for taking action about this case.
· Urging the local councils that will be harmed by Har Ahim-Azmon and Har Shkhenya plans to take immediate action and submit a request for extending the period of objection submission.
· ACAP will provide the local councils with the relevant maps to facilitate and expedite the process of objection submission.
· Urging the relevant local authorities to turn to their citizens in order to prepare individual objections to these plans; that is in addition to the general objection that the local authorities will submit in protest against blocking the potential for future expansion for their localities.