Text size

Eli Amitay, the director general of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, will end his term a year early, as part of a compromise deal struck in the cabinet yesterday.

The decision was made following accusations by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan that Amitay had violated planning and other regulations and had refused to cooperate with panels of experts.

According to the compromise, initiated by Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, rather than being dismissed, Amitay will end his term in July. By the time he steps down, he will have served in the position for nine years.

Amitay reportedly said he would petition the High Court of Justice if the cabinet decided to shorten his term.

Minutes and recording obtained by Haaretz from a meeting of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority Plenum (its statutory governing body ) reveal the acrimonious nature of relations between Erdan and Amitay.

During the meeting, Erdan said the authority systematically violated planning and construction laws, causing illegal structures to be built on authority lands. He also said that the authority permitted private events to take place in its parks and reserves in violation of regulations.

Erdan said Amitay had not conveyed information to committees of experts appointed by the plenum and the plenum frequently found itself retroactively approving development and construction in reserves. Experts on the plenum said there were practically no organized files of information on reserves and sites. Erdan also said the authority's Internet site had been used to attack a public environmental body, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

Officials at the authority rejected Erdan's claims during and after the meeting. They noted that of the 800 structures in parks and reserves, several hundred were put up before Amitay took office and that he had begun to address the problems. No private events had been held in parks for two years now, the officials said.

Legal officials in the Environmental Protection Ministry said Amitay had never issued written directives that permits must be obtained for construction.

Responding to accusations that Amitay did not cooperate with experts, the officials said scientists do not take into account tourism considerations.

At the meeting, the authority's internal comptroller, Shmuel Rubichek, said that he had not received information and that personnel were instructed not to speak to him. Amitay denied the charges.

According to the minutes, Amitay said Erdan had refused to meet with him for a long time, and when he finally did, he demanded Amitay's resignation saying "You and I don't get along."