The road to hell is paved with good intentions, says the popular proverb. This may be the appropriate description for the situation that developed here following a decision of the municipal attorney to allow construction permits retroactively.

About three years ago, during mayor Uri Lupolianski’s days, municipal attorney Yossi Havilio presented the following proposal: All illegal construction in the city – east and west – would be given a chance to be legalized in order to avoid, as much as possible, the hazards of unsupervised construction and, at the same time, make it easier for residents who had purchased that property in good faith. The main idea was that buildings that had been registered as illegal (as well as added structures to existing buildings) would be submitted by a request to be checked by the legal department of the municipality and then forwarded to the Planning and Construction Committee to be legitimized (including payment of due taxes).

All parties involved – residents, entrepreneurs and elected members of the city council – welcomed the proposal. What Havilio had in mind was an acceptable choice between two impossible options: going on with illegal constructions or forcing unpopular demolitions (and not only in east Jerusalem).

Now Havilio is outraged and frustrated. So much so that last week, he sent the Planning Committee a letter, instructing them not to deal with some of the requests submitted, which  had not been submitted to his department for examination first, as they should have been. 

“What Havilio has found out over the last few months,” explained a source close to the committee, “was that quite a few of those involved turned the whole process into a farce. It was as if everything was approved in advance, and the only thing left was a simple formality, far from what Havilio had in mind.” 

In other words, the opportunity the attorney wanted to grant people who admitted they had broken the law and genuinely wanted to correct the situation  was reduced to a token formality. Instead of presenting the committee with a detailed file of the illegal aspects and steps, people just build openly without the required permits and then submit papers to obtain, almost automatically,  the a posteriori authorization stamp, “a kind of winking at the law,” continued the source.

As a result, last week a list of seven cases of illegal construction, which had not been submitted first for approval by the legal department, were rejected from the committee’s agenda.
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