Arab MK: Gov’t obstinate on demolitions

Knesset to vote on bill today that would make fines, home razing easier to enforce

IDF demolishes illegal structures in Kalansuwa‏  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
IDF demolishes illegal structures in Kalansuwa‏
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Knesset is set to vote Wednesday in second and third readings on a bill that would ease the way to impose large fines and home demolitions on construction violations and illegal building.
MK Abdullah Abu Marouf (Joint List) told The Jerusalem Post that this bill was imposed on the Arab population in Israel, without trying to find a middle ground. Since the beginning of the legislative process, the bill sparked anger in the Arab sector, with members saying it is designed to target them.
“This comes at a bad time,” he said. “For a long time we have tried to reach an agreement and to settle this issue of illegal construction, but it seems that the government have chosen this uncompromising path.”
The proposed amendment to the Planning and Building Law calls to restrict the discretion of courts regarding the enforcement of construction violations, and to expand the powers of administrative entities, especially national planning bodies and planning enforcement entities, dealing with construction performed without a permit.
It would also increase fines and prison terms for building offenses.
In recent weeks, the Interior and Environmental Protection Committee, which advanced the bill, met with government representatives in order to amend the legislation and soften it.
It was decided that the law would come into force only six months after it passes and violations in residential buildings will fall under the legislation’s purview only if they were constructed in the past two years.
Older homes will be subject to the old law.
The explanatory notes for the amendment, drafted by Deputy Attorney-General Erez Kaminitz, speak of the need to create a deterrent against rampant illegal construction.
The notes attribute the problem to a “lack of available and updated information on construction offenses, failure to bring [offenses] to trial, lengthy proceedings, lenient penalization, failure to enforce execution of demolition orders contained in judgments and the time required to implement judgments containing demolition orders. All of these lead to a serious negative impact on deterrence with respect to both the offenders themselves and others who learn and see with their own eyes how offenders are rewarded and how illegal construction is worthwhile for the offender.”
Abu Marouf claimed that this situation was created due to lack of master plans in Arab villages and cities.
“The authorities refused to confirm those plans,” he said.
“This is why the bill addresses mainly the Arab population – most of the violations are in those villages."
He said it seems that they wanted this disorder in the building sphere.
“We are reasonable – we have asked for two more years of discussion in order to settle this matter in which we know that some of our buildings will be demolished. But instead they have brought this bill.”
Ben Lynfield contributed to this report.