Lawmakers score IDF for holding on to bases that could be used for homes
Selling the land off for development would lower housing prices, MK Ariel says.
The Israel Defense Forces came under fire at a Knesset committee hearing on Monday for holding onto scores of unused bases that could be sold off and developed, thus increasing the housing stock and lowering prices.
"There is a feeling that the IDF has a state [of its own], and numerous properties, including those in city centers, affect the cost of living for all of us," said State Control Committee chairman MK Uri Ariel (National Union ).
"Things cannot remain they way they have been for 60 years. The IDF cannot continue to hold so much property without any need for it."
Bezalel Treiber, deputy director general of the Defense Ministry, told the committee there are now fewer than 70 unused army bases, down from a high of 200. Eighteen unused bases are being returned to the ILA, and the IDF is expected to spend NIS 8 million on evacuating the rest, Treiber said.
The IDF will sell off the land of its base on the Tel Aviv-Givatayim border within two years, he noted, adding that the army will draw up the master plan for the real estate project and the Israel Lands Authority will conduct the tenders.
The Defense Ministry is in the process of mapping out 750 bases, continued Treiber, saying it has established a special unit to survey all its properties by the end of next year.
"We hope to reach an agreement with the ILA on returning the land. Whether it will be returned as is or after it is cleaned up, it is important for us that certain properties be sold as is, and I am in favor of the contractor who wins the tender being the one to clean it up for construction," Treiber told the panel.
Monday's meeting was the third the committee held on the issue, after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss harshly criticized the IDF for holding on to dozens of unused bases without any reason. A representative of the comptroller's office told the committee that it was very important for the Defense Ministry to quickly update the ILA on the status of the bases.
The ILA has set up a special unit to deal with the bases, as most of the ILA's data and maps of the bases are decades out of date and have never been computerized, said the ILA's Israel Skop.
Just collecting and updating the data will take two to three years, said Skop. The ILA will consider outsourcing the project and report to the committee within a month and a half on its work plan and schedule, he said.
The Ministerial Committee on State Control discussed the matter and set a schedule for evacuating army bases all over the country, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman told the committee.