The High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the government to cease all discussions pertaining to the proposed planning and construction reform. The order followed a petition filed by environmental organizations asking the court to extend the deadline for filing objections to the bill.

The cabinet was scheduled to discuss the reform in Thursday’s cabinet meeting, but the temporary injunction forbids it from doing so until the court rules on the issue next week.

The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva, V’din) and four other environmental and social groups filed the petition to the court on Sunday, requesting a temporary injunction instructing the government to halt discussions of the planning and construction reform and extending the time given for the public to file responses to the legislation from 21 to 90 days.

The draft of the bill was drawn up by the Prime Minister’s Office and was first made public on February 10. The reform aims to ease bureaucratic procedures in the planning and construction sector by restructuring the planning committee system and setting down new regulations.

The petitioners claim that more time is required to properly study and debate the plan, which has 585 clauses and covers nearly 250 pages, and that the government is trying to rush legislation that is of critical importance, without proper public discussion.

The petition, filed against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, the government, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and the National Planning Council, states: “A time period of merely 21 days is unreasonable, illogical and unfair. It presents a facade of a democratic process of consultation.

“In light of the problematic behavior of the government on this matter, it is necessary to ensure that the public and the government ministries have ample opportunity to offer a serious and in-depth response to the bill’s proposals,” the petition continues.

In a letter sent to Netanyahu, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan expressed disapproval of the draft of the reform circulated to the ministers.

“The bill may lead to severe injury to the environment, nature, open spaces and the quality of lives of the residents of Israel. Both I and the professionals in my office believe the proposal will prevent adequate planning of the state’s lands, meddle with the planning hierarchy and limit proper public oversight on planning regulations,” Erdan wrote.

“Israel is the most crowded country in the developed world, whose population is expected to grow substantially. As such, development needs to be measured and balanced and ensure the conservation of open spaces for the good of the public, the environment and future generations.”

Erdan also wrote that he identified a gap between the principles expressed in the presentation of the reform before the ministers and the plans as they appear in the circulated draft of the bill.

MK Nitzan Horovitz, a member of the Knesset’s Environmental Caucus, said that “Netanyahu in effect is causing the destruction of the nation’s planning system, by removing the checks and balances from it – all for the benefit of real estate moguls and special interest groups.

“The Supreme Court proved once again that it is the real protector of Israeli democracy.”

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