With a new planning and building bill slated to come to a vote in the Knesset next week, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) expressed his dissatisfaction with the planning bill, and he wrote a letter to the state comptroller on Tuesday asking that the latter’s office perform a thorough examination of the bill before it comes to a vote next week.
During a discussion on Tuesday, Environmental Protection Ministry representatives said that Minister Gilad Erdan was considering bringing the bill back to the cabinet for review, as there had not been enough time to review the new version, according to MK Khenin. The bill, he said, is both anti-social and anti-environmental. Eliminating the influence of public checks and balances, it would allow the Interior Ministry to circumvent the former planning process and authorize some construction projects with little accountability, he claimed.
The environmental advocacy groups against the bill
Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) also sent a letter to the Knesset legal adviser and the Joint Economic- Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Tuesday demanding that a complete version of the legislation be published in a timely manner.
The bill aims to restructure the process of obtaining approval for building projects across the country, including consolidating the various approval bodies into one overarching unit to make the process more efficient.
However, the environmental advocacy group said that while the Knesset has distributed different parts of the bill for public review in the past few days, many portions of the legislation have yet to be finalized. Because the different bits and pieces of the bill are actually integrated and rely heavily on one another, it is impossible to vote on the bill until its text is entirely available and all connections between parts have been made clear, Adam Teva V’Din argued, adding that a reasonable period of review for the bill in its complete form would be at least 30 working days.
In its current form, the bill contains portions that refer to additional clauses that have not yet been made public, the organization’s senior attorney, Eli Ben-Ari, wrote in the letter. “It is important to clarify that this is not just to maintain the rights of Knesset members to perform correctly and properly the most important role imposed upon them, which is to take part in the legislative process,” Ben- Ari wrote. “The point is, above all, to safeguard the right of the general public regarding a law that is expected to influence significant aspects of life.” The bill, he argued, will be an integral part of the country’s fabric for decades to come, and therefore must be available to both legislators and the public “without shortcuts.” Meanwhile, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) plenum called on the Knesset to refrain from removing INPA representatives from the planning committee – a stipulation the newest version of the bill makes. According to the INPA, including parks officials in planning increases the professionalism of project development while safeguarding environmental and heritage values during construction. Their removal would exclude parks officials from influencing the early stages of planning and would instead require them to place objections further along, causing unnecessary delays, the authority argued.
Naor Yerushalmi, executive director of green umbrella group Life and Environment and a member of the INPA plenum, contended that it would be impossible to exclude the organization from the planning process, as it is “required by virtue of the law to protect nature and landscapes.” “The INPA plays a central and decisive role in Israel’s planning processes, and it must be involved and integrated with them from the onset,” Yerushalmi said. “The reform, whose establishment realizes the goal of fast advancement and efficient planning processes in the state, will cause in its current form an absurd and backward situation in which the INPA will become an inhibiting factor when expressing its stance only in the later steps... instead of influencing the process from the beginning and assisting in its promotion.”
Don’t fast-track oil drilling permits
Fast-tracking procedures to approve terrestrial oil drilling could lead to environmental disaster, warned MK Khenin on Tuesday, following reports that the Energy and Water Resources Ministry is doing that very thing. Speaking at the Knesset committee on environment and health, Khenin warned against the ministry’s intention to fast-track drilling approvals without first requiring a study of environmental impact, and without giving the public a chance to object. “Oil drilling is not an appropriate area for fast tracks,” Khenin urged, vowing to do everything in his power to foil the initiative in Knesset.