Despite a 2007 decision by the Prime Minister’s Office that all national offices must relocate to the capital no later than 2015, the Culture and Sport and Interior ministries say that insufficient space has been allocated for such a move.
Following the decision, the director of the Prime Minister’s Office was charged with forming an implementation team to devise a master plan to develop roughly 130,000 sq.m. of land to house 95 national units from 20 government agencies.
While the resolution, titled “Moving the national units of government to Jerusalem,” stipulated that nearly all government offices will be “gradually transferred” to the city by this year, little has been accomplished.
In response to a letter from the government stating that it had until mid-2015 to facilitate the move, the Culture and Sport Ministry made it clear that such an undertaking is presently impossible, given the lack of prepared office space in the capital.
“I am unable to respond to your questions about moving our offices to Jerusalem, because this is not an issue that is up to the Culture and Sport Ministry, it is an issue for the Government Housing Administration,” director-general Orly Froman wrote on Wednesday.
After receiving the letter, the Interior Ministry responded that the relocation is logistically unmanageable in the time frame requested.
The two ministries are not alone in their concerns about the directive, which was issued in coordination with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Government Housing Administration, the Finance Ministry and the Jerusalem Development Authority.
According to an October State Comptroller’s Report, nearly six years after the decision to transfer all national units of government to Jerusalem – with the exception of region-specific offices – implementation has largely failed.
When the order was signed, the government contended that concentrating all its activity in the capital was a key means of strengthening the city politically, socially and economically.
The government said the move would create thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands of square meters of office buildings that would substantially increase property taxes and general commerce revenue, improving the capital’s economic woes.
While the report found that the Government Housing Administration acted in recent years to build structures to house government offices – including the planned expansion of the David Ben-Gurion government complex on Givat Ram – those efforts have yet to bear fruit.
Indeed, the report found that the compound will only provide approximately 15 percent of the total space necessary to transfer all government offices, and is years away from meeting the government’s housing needs.
Furthermore, the report found that the staff charged with securing funding for construction has failed to do so.
The report continued that the plan to have government units relocated has been significantly delayed due to an incomplete action plan delineating sources of financing, monitoring implementation and determining a viable time frame.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz (Hitorerut B’yerushalayim) took the government to task for its lack of preparation, noting the economic toll the “procrastination” is having on the capital’s struggling economy.
“There are over 70 units and more than 4,000 jobs that can strengthen Jerusalem and its economy by bringing jobs for university graduates to Jerusalem,” Berkowtz said on Wednesday.
“This procrastination is in direct contradiction to the government’s decisions and contrary to the [Supreme Court’s opinion] that states ‘Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,’” he said.