The Knesset Internal Affairs and Environmental Committee approved on Sunday for final readings in the plenum a bill to increase enforcement and penalties for illegal construction.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 panel 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; violations in residential buildings will be 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.Since the beginning of the legislative process, the bill sparked anger in the Arab sector, with members saying it is designed to target them.Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud) said that the significance of the bill lies in the deterrence it creates. “The Arab population should understand that the state wants to function according to the rule of law,” he said.“At the same time, we should advance master plans in the Arab villages. We also agreed that if there will be a shortfall of money [to enforce this law], we would find some in order to move the plan forward.”Amsalem added that he wishes to put in order once and for all the whole system regarding this issue. “We want to operate as a state of law. We have no intentions to destroy [homes], we want to make order.”MK Abdullah Abu Marouf (Joint List) said that the legislation is a continuation of the Netanyahu government’s discriminatory policy against Arab citizens. He added that its sole purpose is to destroy homes and impose “cruel and heavy fines.”“This government is continuing its unjust policies toward more than 20% of its citizens, by trying to pass a law whose goal is to demolish the homes of people who built them on their own private land,” he said.“The state has been avoiding the approval of master plans in Arab towns for a long time, and neglecting the natural population growth and the needs of these communities."“The state should regulate these homes immediately and stop the ongoing racist policy against its Arab citizens,” Abu Marouf said.