(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
While the cabinet was meeting to debate the draft state budget on Thursday
evening, hundreds of people gathered at the foot of the Holyland building
complex in southern Jerusalem to protest against the proposed building and
construction reform, promoted by the Prime Minister’s Office.
demonstration, organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature Israel
(SPNI) and the Responsible Planning Coalition, and running under the slogan “No
to the Holyland state,” said that to prevent future corruption cases like the
Holyland affair, the government must stop promoting the reform in its current
Seven busloads of SPNI activists arrived in Jerusalem from across
the country to participate in the demonstration.
They were met there by
lawmakers and representatives from environmental and social
Among the speakers at the event were Kadima MK and
former Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, Labor MK Eitan Cabel, National
Arye Eldad, Hadash MK Dov Henin, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tzur and
environmental protection director, Nir Papai.
Protesters carried signs
and banners reading “Separate between planning and permitting,” “Stop
corruption” and “Quality of life: Not only for the wealthy.”
auspices of a reform in permit issuing, the prime minister is opening
to a wave of corruption that will overflow us once the reform is
“We are in favor of a reform, we are in favor of increased
efficiency, we are in favor of change, but what Netanyahu is proposing
said Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz.
“I tip my hat to the hundreds of people
who, despite the heat and the fact that we are into the weekend and the
vacation, understand the threat that the reform, in its current form,
to each and every one of us, and came to Jerusalem to express their
said Papai. “The opposition to the reform as it is currently proposed is
by a wide range of varied organizations, from political parties from
spectrum, to teenagers and elderly citizens and to many thousands of
from all across the country who signed the petition in favor of a
more responsible reform. We call on the prime minister to listen to the
and promote a different reform that will be acceptable to
After the speeches, representatives from 32 organizations
approached the stage and signed a petition to be sent to Prime Minister
Netanyahu calling on him to split the reform into two. The petition
government to aggressively pursue the parts of the reform that have to
permit issuing, but put aside for further debate the part that has to do
Earlier this week, 44 MKs from nine factions signed a
petition against the reform.
Though most of the signers were opposition
members, coalition MKs Amir Peretz from Labor and Moshe Gafni from
Judaism also lent their support.
At the beginning of the month, the
cabinet rejected the proposal to split the reform.
The building and
construction reform has come under strong criticism from environmental
social organizations since it was first proposed in February.
Netanyahu has said that the bill was designed to remove the bureaucratic
impediments that have turned the planning and building process in Israel
one of the most complicated in the world, the plan’s opponents said it
much power to local authorities that don’t have the knowledge and
deal with external pressures, and warn of a rise in corruption and the
disappearance of the nation’s open spaces if it is approved.
opponents have even taken to calling it the “Holyland reform,” saying
passage would bring about many similar corruption cases in the future.