City gears up for battle against Defense Ministry

The municipality says the building will block the view of the sea from Mount Carmel.

The municipality of Haifa is preparing to fight the Defense Ministry over a large structure the ministry has begun building at the Haifa Port, reports The municipality says the building, which will be 25 meters high and 150 meters across, will entirely block the views of the sea from Mount Carmel, and it will not allow this to happen. According to the report, because the planned structure is a military one, it has not gone through the usual planning processes and has been reviewed only by a military security committee. When the municipality expressed strong opposition to the building plans last year, the Defense Ministry agreed to set up a joint ministerial and municipal committee to discuss the issue, but this committee was never formed and work began last week on the structure. City councilors of all parties, local merchants and a majority of Haifa residents are reportedly opposed to the planned building. A municipal spokesman said that although the work was being done on Haifa municipal land, many details were being "hidden" from public scrutiny and there seemed to be breaches of building regulations. The city has asked the ministry to halt the work immediately, but so far the request has been ignored. Mayor Yona Yahav said he had no intention of compromising on the issue and the city was acting against the project through several channels. A Defense Ministry spokesman said the project would "significantly strengthen" national security and had been upheld by the courts. The spokesman said that while the ministry had made some changes to the plans in accordance with requests by the municipality, it could not make all the changes as the building would then not be able to perform its security functions. He also said the ministry had not set up the joint committee because Yahav had refused to agree to accept its findings as final. The spokesman also denied that the building would block views of the sea, saying it would be smaller than the city was claiming it would be.