Green groups slammed a National Council for Planning and Building decision on Tuesday to remove a permanent environmental NGO representative from a key subcommittee.
The council, which operates under the Interior Ministry, chose to remove the representative from the Subcommittee on Principle Planning Matters, as part of an overhaul of its subcommittees.
According to the ministry, these actions were taken as methods to streamline and simplify subcommittee responsibilities, which have been the same for more than a decade and are not always compatible with current activities.
The subcommittee in question is responsible for discussing issues that the council transfers to its members, and handling changes and objections to plans.
Representatives from the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Health Ministry and various green groups all came out against the decision.
SPNI had turned to the public on Monday, requesting that it send emails to Interior Minister Gideon Saar ahead of the decision, and accumulated more than 2,800 emails, the organization said.
“This move will hurt quality of life for all of us: in housing, in transportation, in energy, in agriculture, in forests, in open spaces and in nature reserves, in water and in other fields,” a statement from SPNI said.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz likewise slammed the decision, stressing that environmental representation on the subcommittee gave support to “the interests of the next generation” and to those who simply wanted to enjoy nature.
“Today these interests were hit hard,” he said. “No additional apartment will be built today in the National Council, but millions of mouths were silenced, and the decision that was led by the Interior Ministry is a conceptual and value failure, which sees narrow and immediate interests rather than long-term ones.”
Naor Yerushalmi, the CEO of Life and Environment – the umbrella group for all Israeli green groups – similarly emphasized that the council’s decision was “silencing the voice of the civil planning system” and thereby “exacerbating the lack of trust between citizens and governmental institutions.”
“The changes in composition of the Subcommittee on Principle Planning Matters is a developer takeover of the planning process, and a continuation in the overriding of the right of the public to participate in and influence the process,” Yerushalmi said. “It is sad that specifically on the day that the Holyland trial ended, the government violates the checks and balances of the public in the planning system – [considering that the Holyland scandal was] an affair that highlighted their necessity.”