(photo credit: Courtesy)
The chairman of the Knesset’s construction committee slammed Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday for what he called “derogatory remarks” directed
against the committee and its members, as Netanyahu’s housing reform proposal
received mixed reactions.
David Azoulay (Shas), who chairs the Joint
Internal-Economic Committee for the Planning and Construction Law – 2010,
referred to comments made by Netanyahu at a meeting of the Likud faction, where
he said the prime minister had criticized the pace at which the committee was
“Whoever looked for hasty deliberations on the planning and
construction law was mistaken,” Azoulay said at a press conference.
say that we are delaying the discussions,” he said.
“They forget that on
the previous version of the law from 1965 they worked seven years. The
Knesset is not a market stall to be passed from hand to hand. We will not deal
with this issue casually. The reform in planning and building is supposed to
determine our future for the next few decades.”
To protest against the
criticism directed at it, the committee would not convene next week, Azoulay
His press conference followed Netanyahu’s announcement on Monday of
planned housing reforms that are intended to expedite the construction of
thousands of housing units to deal with the nationwide shortage of about 100,000
Under the proposal, which Netanyahu plans to submit to the
cabinet on Sunday, national housing commissions will be established for a period
of 18 months to bypass the bureaucracy of local and regional planning and
The proposal won reserved support on Tuesday from
some sections of the construction industry, including Contractors Association
director- general Motti Kidur, who told Army Radio his organization has been
calling for months for the return of the housing commissions. Kidur said the
commissions had proven to be efficient when they last operated during the 1990s
to meet construction demand that followed the influx of immigrants from the
former Soviet Union.
“We hope that these aren’t just declarations, but
that we will also see action,” he said.
“It must be ensured that more
professional laborers [will be brought to the construction industry]. The State
of Israel is thousands of workers short, and without them this important
national mission will not be met.”
Ofer Toister, a Bnei Brak attorney
specializing in construction issues, welcomed Netanyahu’s initiative but said it
would only work if it improved the planning system and not if it led to
legislation that would be difficult to implement.
“This might be proof
that the prime minister has begun to realize that the solution is not in new
legislation that will cause dramatic change,” he said, “but rather in an urgent
improvement in the planning process and increased efficiency through allocation
of the resources and man power required by the prioritization of these
The proposal was criticized by environmental groups, including
the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which said it would hurt the
environment and wouldn’t solve the housing shortage.
Netanyahu insists on establishing another destructive committee, instead of
looking at what is right under his nose: the execution of around 200,000 already
approved housing units, according to government reports,” the society said in a
press release. “[We are] of the opinion that this is the most fitting and
correct solution to the housing problem, which hasn’t been carried out until now
because of government oversights.
“Each populist and unnecessary
procedure that bypasses planning will cause irreversible damage, as we have seen
in the past, and will not solve the housing problem in Israel.”
Mayor Zvi Gov-Ari said local authorities were not the issue, and the problem now
rested completely in the prime minister’s court. The bureaucratic procedures
delaying construction had been caused by two different sources: the Interior
Ministry committees and the Israel Lands Authority’s procedures for approving
landowners’ plans,” he said.
“If the prime minister’s proposal would
decrease government interference via its committees and allow the local
construction planning councils to check and approve the plans,” Gov-Ari said,
“it would be possible to say that every plan presented through the relevant
municipal construction program could be approved within a month.”