Illegal Arab buildings
Illegal Arab buildingsRegavim

Strong-arm manipulation of Israel’s caretaker government: As a result of a pressure campaign by Joint Arab List MKs, Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni will convene a hearing to deliberate the suspension of Amendment 116 to Israel’s Planning and Building Code, otherwise known as the Kaminetz Law.

This hearing is essentially another stage in the maneuver carried out by the Arab MKs in the late-night hearing that dissolved the outgoing Knesset and rescheduled the next round of elections. Taking advantage of the looming deadline and the necessity to legislate an alternative date for elections, MK Ahmed Tibi and other Arab MKs threatened to cast the necessary votes only on condition that the Kaminetz Law is repealed or suspended indefinitely. After representatives of Regavim rushed to the Knesset in the middle of the night to head off the Arab parties’ putsch, right-wing MKs formulated a temporary fix: Only if the Justice Minister calls for amendments to the Kaminetz Law, a hearing will be held in the Knesset Finance Committee, and not the Interior Committee, which was disbanded with the dissolution of the Knesset.

In recent days, Regavim was surprised to learn that MK Moshe Gafni, in coordination with MK Ahmed Tibi and the Joint Arab List, are preparing to suspend the Kaminetz Law and to set law enforcement against illegal construction back immeasurably, particularly in the Negev and the Galilee. The maneuver is based on a unique “window of opportunity:” As the clock of Fiscal Year 2019 winds down, they are holding massive budgetary appropriations to the Justice Ministry hostage: Justice Minister Amir Ohana has been informed that if he does not take the steps necessary to suspend the Kaminetz Law, tens of millions in end-of-year budgetary funds will be returned to the Treasury Department, and the clock for the 2019 fiscal year will run out; these funds will be unavailable to the Ministry for crucial projects once the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.

The Kaminetz Law was passed to combat the scourge of illegal construction throughout Israel, a phenomenon classified by Israel’s Supreme Court as a national epidemic. The Kaminetz Law revamped enforcement against structures built without permits, on state land zoned for agricultural use. Construction of this sort damages infrastructure and makes normal development of the Negev and Galilee impossible.

The Kaminetz Law, a series of amendments to the enforcement chapter of Israel’s Planning and Construction Code, brought significant improvements in enforcement by creating effective administrative tools, and reduced illegal construction starts by 50% in the months following its passage, restoring the rule of law to municipal authorities in areas that had been virtually lawless, particularly in the Negev, the Galilee and the “Triangle.”

Regavim Director Meir Deutsch commented on this morning’s hearing: “This is a cynical, underhanded attempt to destroy one of the most significant accomplishments of the outgoing Netanyahu government by taking advantage of the unstable political situation. I am confident that Likud MKs will have no part in the putsch that the Chairman of the Finance Committee and the Arab parties are plotting. The Kaminetz Law is one of the most important achievements of the outgoing Netanyahu government and I believe that the Prime Minister will not allow it to be erased.”