Holyland fallout causing anxiety in J'lem City Hall

"Even people who have nothing to do with the scandal are concerned that something will happen to them," says councilwoman.

By ABE SELIG
April 22, 2010 10:10
2 minute read.
jerusalem city hall 88

jerusalem city hall 88. (photo credit: )

 
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“Fear and uncertainty” have permeated Jerusalem City Hall in the wake of the Holyland scandal, according to a city council member.

 As arrests continue in the affair and senior officials in the Jerusalem Municipality have summoned for questioning by police over the coming days, the atmosphere in City Hall has taken an anxious cast, Councilwoman Yael Antebi told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

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“People are worried,” said Antebi, who represents Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood at City Hall. “Even people who have nothing to do with Holyland are concerned that something will happen to them. No one is sure what’s going to happen next.”

Antebi added that, “like the old adage, ‘if you get burned by boiling water, you’re afraid to drink it cold,’ some people are now afraid to carry out seemingly normal procedures for fear that they might be doing something wrong.

Other City Council members took Antebi’s remarks a step further on Wednesday, speaking to the Post as news surfaced that former Bank Hapoalim chairman Dan Dankner and former head of the Israel Lands Administration, Yaakov Efrati, had been arrested for their alleged involvement in another real estate corruption episode, after the Holyland affair had already implicated former Jerusalem mayors Uri Lupolianski and Ehud Olmert, and a slew of former municipal officials.

“How low does the responsibility [for Holyland] go and where will the blame yet fall? I don’t want to go there, because we don’t really know yet,” Deputy Mayor for Planning and Environment Naomi Tsur told the Post

“It may turn out to be one of these spider webs that ends up falling apart,” she said.

But Tsur, who was previously the director of the Jerusalem chapter of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said that she had objected to Holyland plan from its inception.


In 1996, Tsur presented an objection to the plan on behalf of the SPNI Jerusalem Chapter.

“There was obviously something politically wrong with the plan, because it wasn’t approved in the local planning committee or by the city council,” she said. “Instead it was taken by the city leadership directly to the regional planning committee.”

Tsur pointed out that the main issue is “how our planning system works and what we’re leaving behind for future generations,” she said, criticizing the current government’s planning reform bill, “which is being pushed through quite hastily by the government, and which would allow a number of loopholes that would make for many more Holylands.”

One of those loopholes, Tsur said, was that the proposed reform would do away with appeals process for residents who object to a particular planning initiative.

“[Area] residents filed an appeal for Holyland,” she said. “And while it failed, under the new reform they wouldn’t even have the opportunity to appeal.

“I don’t want to do away with any checks and balances,” she continued. “We shouldn’t have to count on civil society to plan the country responsibly, we should have accountable officials and professionals who plan intelligently.

“I think it’s a terrible pity if we live in a world where politicians are immediately corrupt,” she said. “They should be responsible people who are elected because they care about their city or their government. Sadly, that isn’t always the case.”

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