The government on Sunday authorized a wide-ranging plan to enforce building and planning laws in Israeli Arab towns and villages. Responsible for the enforcement are the towns themselves, and those that do not enforce the laws will not be eligible for a major infusion of billions of shekels that the government has allocated for the towns.
New inspectors of the National Building and Planning Committee will be hired in order to enforce the new directives. The inspectors will note the illegal construction in towns and villages and alert local authorities, who will be expected to prevent the continuation of construction or otherwise work towards acquiring permits. Police will enforce the decisions of the local authorities. Towns that do not enforce the directives will not be eligible for allocations from a fund worth billions of shekels that has been established to help the towns and villages remain solvent, as many of them are bankrupt.
Arab local authority heads appealed in a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to link the building and budget issues. At a meeting Monday with government minister Gila Gamliel, Haaretz reported, the local authority heads indicated that they would not cooperate if there was linkage. Speaking last week, Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon said that no funds would be transferred as part of the municipal budget rehabilitation program unless the issue of illegal construction was resolved.
The Regavim organization, which for years has been fighting illegal Arab construction, praised the government’s decision, saying that “this is the first time since the establishment of the state that such a serious attempt is being made to prevent illegal construction, especially in the Arab sector. This is definitely a step in the right direction.”