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Photo by: Aloni Mor/Sof Hashavua
Nat’l Council restores environmental NGO rep to key post but axes other public delegates
By SHARON UDASIN
10/06/2014
Environmental organizations were glad to see their return to representation, but fail ure to reinstate all their delegates.
 
The National Council for Planning and Building on Tuesday restored two of four recently removed public delegates to a key subcommittee – including an environmental NGO representative.

The council, which operates under the Interior Ministry, elected to axe the environmental representative along with three other public delegates from the Subcommittee on Principle Planning Matters on May 13.

The decision had occurred as part of an overhaul of National Council subcommittees by chairman Shuki Amrani, in an effort to streamline and simplify responsibilities, according to the Interior Minsitry.

However, following widespread pressure from environmental organizations a Knesset members, and as per the instructions of Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar on May 22, the council revisited the situation in a hearing on Tuesday.

In the discussion that ensued, council members approved the recommendations of Amrani to restore the representative of Israel’s environmental groups and the representative of community institutions to the subcommittee, the Interior Ministry said.

The two public representatives not restored were those overseeing the young generation and architects.

In addition to removing these two delegates, the National Council members voted during the May 13 session to remove representatives from the Health and Economy ministries – which received harsh criticism from Health Minister Yael German and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

This subcommittee, the Interior Ministry said, was originally designed – in 1965 – with the purpose of catalyzing and promoting the construction process.

“Naturally, the number of members in the subcommittee must be limited and balanced, and it is impossible to include in the subcommittee representatives of all the bodies that are members of the National Council itself,” a statement from the Interior Ministry said.

NGOs are active members of the district planning committees as well as the National Council, and are given the opportunity to influence the decision-making process from the initial launch of plans, the Interior Ministry said.

The new composition of the Subcommittee on Principle Planning Matters will create a proper balance between planning procedures and safeguarding the public interest, Amrani said during the discussion.

While environmental organizations were glad to see their return to subcommittee representation, they slammed the council for failing to reinstate all four of the public delegates.

On Tuesday morning prior to the hearing, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) youth volunteers picketed at the entrance to the National Council for Planning and Building offices, distributing material to members of the council as they entered the building.

The material demanded a restoration of all public representatives expelled from the committee, and not just two.

“Unfortunately, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, along with most of the members of the National Council, ignored the extensive public protests regarding the removal of four public representatives from the committee,” a statement from SPNI said. “The environmental NGO representative is indeed on of the two returned to the subcommittee, but the struggle was about all of the public representatives removed, and therefore, we will continue activities toward the return of the remaining public representatives.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry said that although its National Council representatives abstained from the vote due to the fact that their specific demands were accepted, the ministry expects the restoration of delegates to be “more comprehensive and not only include representatives of environmental organizations.”

Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) was so dissatisfied with the failure to restore the remaining two public delegates that the organization vowed to appeal to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday.

“We will continue to fight for fair and full representation for the civil society delegates,” said Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha.

“As promised, we will turn to the High Court with all the organizations expelled from the subcommittee, to ensure that the considerations of planning institutions from now on are not based solely on political- economic interests,” he said.
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