Mock ceremony at Holyland

Opponents of Netanyahu's planning law reform protest: It will facilitate corruption.

Holyland mock ceremony 311 (photo credit: Nature Protection Society)
Holyland mock ceremony 311
(photo credit: Nature Protection Society)
Donning masks depicting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, and other supporters of a proposed reform to the country’s 1965 Planning and Construction Law, members of the Coalition for Responsible Planning (CRP) on Tuesday held a mock Independence Day torch-extinguishing ceremony just below Jerusalem’s now-infamous Holyland housing complex.
They were protesting the reform and the additional corruption they warned might accompany it if it is passed.
Standing on the side of the Begin Highway, in the shadow of the luxury housing project that has taken center stage in a massive corruption scandal implicating former Jerusalem mayors Uri Lupolianski and Ehud Olmert, demonstrators made short speeches in the name of each of the figures they were portraying before extinguishing the flames of their Independence Day torches.
"I, Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, am honored to extinguish this torch in the name of market-driving forces and everyone who helps them,” said the first masked-demonstrator. “For the people of Israel, who can [remodel a] balcony while we cut deals.”
Another demonstrator, wearing a mask depicting the face of Housing Minister Ariel Attias said, “ I, Ariel Attias... am honored to extinguish this torch for the contractors, the well-connected ones, and for the well-being of all of us – from the bank to the ballot box.”
Others wore masks depicting Olmert and attorney David Appel, who also faces numerous corruption charges in a slew of construction-related scandals that have recently been revealed.
The link between the government’s proposed building and planning reform and the Holyland affair, demonstrators told *The Jerusalem Post, was that if the reform is passed, it would usher in changes that could pave the way for more corruption and make similar scandals all the more possible.
“If it passes, every construction project in the country has the potential to become Holyland,” Gitit Weissblum, who took part in the demonstration on behalf of the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, told the *Post.
“It’s an extremely problematic reform,” she said. “And it will make corruption in this sector even worse than it is now.
One of the main points of contention highlighted by its opponents isthe reform’s call to streamline all current building and planningcouncils – along with environmental protection committees – into asingle National Council for Planning and Building.
While that aspect of the reform has been touted by its proponents as amethod of cutting through the bureaucratic tangles that plague thecountry’s construction sector, the CRP, along with other opponents ofthe reform, have claimed this would merely decrease much-neededtransparency and oversight in a process rife with bribery and otherillicit practices.
“[The reform] benefits only the building contractors,” Weissblum said,“while distancing the public from the [building and planning] processeven more.”
Furthermore, demonstrators on Tuesday called into question the firstpassing of the reform in March, on the last day of the Knesset’s wintersession, alleging that MKs had voted on the bill simply out ofcoalition concerns, without first familiarizing themselves with itsextensive material.
The bill, currently awaiting its second reading in the Knesset plenum,is being debated by a special committee that will next convene onMonday.