Some 500 people demonstrated Saturday night in the northern city of Afula over the decision to award construction rights to dozens of Arab families.
The protesters, primarily Jewish residents of the city, called for the tenders to be revoked.
Among the demonstrators were senior officials from the Afula and Nazareth Illit city councils, including David Suissa, the chief of staff to Housing Minister Yoav Galant, the Haaretz daily reported. Suissa, who lives in Afula, has faced public calls for dismissal over his participation in previous demonstrations on the issue.
The protesters held up banners reading: “Afula in danger,” and “Afula is not for sale,” and handed out black balloons to passersby. They also encouraged people to sign a petition calling for the cancellation of the tenders.
Former Nazareth Illit mayor Alex Gedelkin said that the protest was apolitical, Haaretz reported. “What is happening now in Nazareth Illit cannot happen in Afula. Jewish identity is not racism,” he said.
Suissa told the protesters that the building permits were illegal and expressed satisfaction at the police investigation into the matter.
“I am pleased that the fight in Afula has set off many warning bells,” he said. The protest was on behalf of “anyone who grew up in the city and wants to safeguard its character,” he added.
Itay Cohen, one of the leaders of the protest over the tenders, told Haaretz that, “48 families is not a drop in the ocean.”
He also criticized Afula mayor Yitzhak Meron, who earlier this month was heckled with shouts of “traitor” and “terrorist” and calls for his resignation when he attempted to address a similar protest.
The protesters claimed that the winning tender applicants may have coordinated their bids to ensure the neighborhood is populated mainly by Arab residents. They also charged that the tenders were poorly publicized within the city, and only announced in two local newspapers.
Many of the protesters have previously expressed their opposition to having an all-Arab neighborhood in the city.
The tender was run by the Israel Land Administration, which accepted bids on almost 50 plots for homes in a planned community next to the Afula Illit neighborhood. The results, published last month, showed that none of the plots had been won by current residents of Afula and all had been awarded to residents of Arab villages in the area.