New campaign targets massive illegal Arab commercial center in central Israel

Watchdog group takes on sprawling illegal Arab commercial center in central Israel, accusing the government of turning a blind eye.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Illegal commercial center in Kfar Qassem
Illegal commercial center in Kfar Qassem

Every day, hundreds of thousands of motorists pass through the Qesem Junction in central Israel, one of the busiest intersections in the country. But nearly none of these passersby are aware that the massive commercial center that has sprung up between Route 5 and Route 6 (the Trans-Israel Highway) is illegal; in fact, the Kfar Qasem Industrial Zone is the largest illegal enterprise in Israel.

The “commercial zone,” which has grown steadily over the past number of years on land designated and licensed for agricultural use, presently covers some 3000 dunams. The many hundreds of illegal structures that make up this bustling commercial hub are comprised of hundreds of thousands of square meters of illegal construction – and no enforcement action to speak of has ever been taken by any of the relevant authorities against this nearly-incomprehensible sprawl of lawlessness.

Recently, the Regavim Movement submitted a petition in the Central District Regional Court against the National Enforcement Unit for Construction and Planning, the Kfar Qasem Municipality and its Planning and Construction Committee, as well as Minister of Transportation Miri Regev and Minister of the Economy Amir Peretz.

Regavim’s petition paints a bleak picture of the breakdown of any semblance of governance, as various local authorities not only fail to carry out their duties but apparently have adopted a policy of deliberately turning a blind eye to illegal activities.

Aside from the planning and construction aspects of this illegal commercial center, the government has done nothing to deal with the illegal and dangerous roads that access the commercial center – roads that connect directly to Route 5, a high-volume and high-speed highway. These “pirate roads” have already taken a bloody toll on Israeli motorists.

Rent and property taxes in the illegal industrial area are significantly lower than in the legal industrial parks operating nearby, a gap that has led many previously-law abiding businesses to move their operations to the wrong side of the legal fence. This, in turn, has caused direct economic harm to the legal industrial parks located nearby - Kfar Qasem and Lev Ha’aretz, which fall under the auspices of the Kfar Qasem Municipality, and Park Afek, which belongs to Rosh HaAyin.

Regavim’s petition claims that, in practice - either actively or through inaction - the authorities have allowed construction offenders to establish high-power electrical connections to service hundreds of industrial buildings, and, adding insult to injury, have done nothing to prevent the creation of no less than 5 roads that directly connect to the main traffic artery servicing central Israel - Highway No. 5 - enabling thousands of heavy, oversized industrial vehicles to cut into the commuter traffic flow, endangering the lives of motorists and causing massive traffic delays.

Regavim, which monitors the activities of administrative authorities in matters concerning land-use and environmental policy, filed the current petition after conducting extensive, detailed, protracted but fruitless correspondence with the relevant authorities for over a year and a half. After Regavim’s calls for enforcement action against illegal construction and unlicensed businesses and preemptory steps against further illegal activity were ignored or treated to perfunctory and laconic responses, Regavim went to court, represented by attorneys Avi Segal and Yael Cinnamon, and over the past several days, over 100 businesses operating illegally in the commercial zone were served with papers.

"Without a doubt, this is one of the most blatant and massive instances of violation of planning and construction laws, environmental laws, and business licensing laws in the State of Israel, and all of this is not tucked out of sight in some remote location; it’s right out in the open, in one of Israel’s most central locations," says Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim. “It may be hard to believe, but this vast industrial area has sprung up under the watchful eyes – or should I say, the tightly closed eyes, of the authorities that are responsible for law enforcement.”