Transporting elite units 58.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman’s Office)
Six months after a damning State Comptroller’s report about the IDF’s failure to
free unused state lands for civilian use, the army has so far neglected to
return abandoned land to the Israel Land Administration, it was revealed on
In a debate in the Knesset’s State Control Committee, Chairman
Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) said that according to that March report, the IDF has
prevented the return of tens of thousands of dunams of land, currently the sites
of abandoned army camps, to the ILA.
In that same report, the State
Comptroller also noted that there may well be yet more abandoned camps of which
the Chief of Staff is apparently unaware.
However, the IDF has yet to
address the issues raised in that report and return unused land to the
Bar-On slammed what he called the
IDF’s “careless and wasteful” actions in not releasing the land for public
“State lands are a national resource essential for the development
of the country and for its construction – and the lack of land is getting worse
and worse,” Bar-On said.
“There is plenty of land available for
construction in the center and the periphery, but careless and wasteful
supervision and control have prevented it being marketed to the public for
decades.” Some of the abandoned army bases are located in densely populated
urban areas, added Bar-On.
The IDF currently controls almost 80 percent
of state land: just under 40% of state land within the green line is used for
army bases and training, a further 40% of land is currently placed under
building restrictions for military reasons.
And while these unused lands
remain in the IDF’s possession, they cannot be used for other purposes – such as
civilian housing projects.
However, they still cost the taxpayer
considerable amounts of money. According to Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Or, deputy
director of the State Comptroller’s office, in 2008- 2009 alone, the IDF paid
NIS 25 million in property taxes on land it did not use.
Control Committee also revealed that the IDF has continued paying municipal
taxes totaling NIS 10 million on an abandoned army camp in order to avoid having
to pay NIS one million to decontaminate the land.
In Tuesday’s debate on
the matter, Bar-On slammed the IDF for its negligence in the way it has left the
Debris, exposed infrastructure, environmental and safety
hazards and serious land pollution blight the abandoned bases.
uses the pretext of relocating army bases to the Negev to justify delays in
clearing camps that in fact are unconnected to the plans, Bar-On
Plans to move IDF bases to the Negev were first raised in 2005, but
have been stalled ever since over disputes relating to funding the
In April, the IDF announced that NIS 19 billion needed for moving
the bases south would be funded from the sale of land in 14 army bases in
However, the bases slated to be sold – including Tzrifin,
near Rishon Lezion – are currently occupied bases that would be evacuated for
the move, and not abandoned camps.
Bar-On also criticized the ILA for
disregarding the recommendations of the State Comptroller and the prime
Despite pledges by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to establish a
team to address the issues raised in the State Comptroller’s report, so far this
has failed to materialize, Bar-On said.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union)
also slammed the IDF and ILA, accusing the ILA of inflicting a “fatal, severe
and sharp blow” to public trust.
Committee Chairman Bar-On pledged to
hold a hearing of the State Control Committee every three months in order to
monitor developments in the situation.
In response to the criticism,
Deputy Director General of the Defense Ministry Bezalel Treiber, said that the
Defense Ministry changed its priorities following the report’s publication,
noting that since the beginning of the year between five and eight camps have
However, Treiber admitted that the the team dealing with
the issue had only met once.
ILA Deputy Director Ronen Cohen pledged to
the committee that in 2012, army camps will be scrutinized more
According to Cohen, lands formerly belonging to camps in Tel
Hashomer east of Ramat Gan and Camp Dotan (Camp 80) in the Sharon have already
been earmarked for housing construction.