Israel Lands Administration seeks demolition order for tycoon's Atlit mansion
ILA charges that Salt of the Earth and Danny Dankner's family violated a leasing agreement with it.
The Israel Lands Administration will submit an evacuation and demolition order request today against a villa in Atlit where former Bank Hapoalim chairman Danny Dankner lives with his family.
The ILA, whose request will be submitted to Haifa Magistrate's Court, is acting against Dankner and his ex-wife, Shoshana, who currently both live in the villa with their children, and also against Salt of the Earth Ltd. - a company formerly owned by the Dankner family and today owned by Shari Arison. Salt of the Earth owns the rights to the land.
The ILA charges that Salt of the Earth and the Dankner family violated a leasing agreement with it. The company and the Dankners renovated a workers compound, turning it into a giant mansion without appropriate authorization and without paying the fees required for such a renovation, the ILA claims.
The structure in dispute was built in 1962 - near the Salt of the Earth factories in Atlit - and served as a dormitory for workers.
The workers compound covered an 80-meter area. The Dankners began living in the structure in the early 1990s, turning small huts into a private residence, with a tennis court, a swimming pool and a vineyard. The mansion's grounds cover a 700-meter area and are closed off by a wall.
According to a statement submitted by the Dankners to Bank Hapoalim for the purpose of securing a loan, the villa is worth NIS 15 million.
"This demand for evacuation aims to bring an end to the private aggrandizement of public land and wanton violation of a leasing agreement," writes attorney Elad Chen, deputy civil prosecutor in the Haifa district, on behalf of the ILA.
"The sequence of events creates the alarming suspicion that the defendants' conduct stems from a perception that public lands are totally up for grabs," the request states.
But the ILA has submitted this demand against the Dankner family rather belatedly. The family has lived on the site for more than 20 years and the allegedly illegal expansion and renovation was undertaken many years ago. The ILA knew about this apparent mansion piracy in Atlit for years - and did nothing about it.
In May 2008, the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council's planning and construction committee authorized the Dankners' request to ratify the building irregularities. A year ago, Haaretz disclosed that, two weeks before the committee gave its approval of the mansion, Bank Hapoalim - at the time headed by the Dankners - donated NIS 350,000 to a school under the council's jurisdiction.
The Interior and Environmental Protection ministries submitted an appeal against the committee decision. The appeal was to be reviewed by the Haifa district planning and construction committee, but the Dankner family filed an administrative complaint, meaning that a decision about the allegedly illegal Atlit mansion is pending and will be reviewed by Haifa District Court Judge Bracha Bar-Ziv.
The ILA first entered this dispute in July 2011 when it called on Salt of the Earth to demolish the villa. In response, Salt of the Earth claimed it has no responsibility for the structure, which has been under the control of the Dankners. The company claims that changes in the structure's use and dimensions were made before Salt of the Earth was operated by its current owner, Arison, who took control of the company in 2007.
Haifa district civil prosecutors state: "This demand was prepared collaboratively by the Haifa district's civil prosecutors, the state prosecutor's complaints division and the Israel Lands Administration, as part of a wide effort to enforce the state's laws regarding land use."