(photo credit: KNESSET CHANNEL)
Some 50,000 Israeli homes are at risk for demolition by the state, Joint List and Balad MK Basel Ghattas told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
That “would be like destroying an entire city like Nazareth – it would be a declaration of war,” he said.
“If there is not an immediate halt of these criminal acts of destruction, the situation among the Arab population would be on the verge of explosion,” Ghattas warned.
“Instead of solving the housing shortage in Arab society, the government is destroying homes under the guise of [demolishing] ‘illegal construction,’” he charged.
The Balad MK called for the rebuilding of homes that are destroyed and demanded that demolitions be frozen until the governmental authorities provide the necessary permits to legalize the structures.
On Wednesday, the Joint List sent a letter to the Finance Ministry outlining recommendations to deal with what it calls an Arab housing shortage.
The “housing shortage in Arab society has reached frightening proportions,” as tens of thousands of families are in immediate need of apartments or land to build, the letter said.
It proposes that two main preliminary steps be taken.
First, change the government’s bureaucratic mechanism by speeding up processes and bypassing obstructive regulations.
And second, “a total freeze on the carrying out of house demolitions in Arab towns.”
The majority of these homes, says the letter, could be legalized in a short period by using “policy instruments.”
Ari Briggs, international relations director of Regavim – an NGO “seeking to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of national land” – told the Post that Israeli Arabs “need to respect the law and start building within the boundaries of their towns and villages while following zoning laws.
“That might mean having to build higher density residences, but that is what is needed in a state with limited land resources.”
Responding to Ghattas, Briggs said, “Yes, there are tens of thousands of illegally built homes in the Israeli- Arab sector, but we do not believe the current government has any intention of demolishing them.
“We believe all citizens of Israel including Israeli Arabs need to be responsible citizens and abide by the law.”