Major shock in Tel Aviv. Like many shocks, this one, too, was not surprising at all. Everything was to be expected - Shotah Hovel, the head of the permit department in the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, and others are suspected of taking bribes, fraudulent receipt under aggravated circumstances, breach of faith, conspiracy, aiding and abetting a crime, persuading another to commit fraud and money-laundering - quite a long and impressive list of suspicions, and the court has extended their remand.
Readers with sharp memories may recall a column that appeared here months ago. It reported on Dorit's desire to enclose our balcony, and add 10.83 square meters to our apartment. The column described in detail the trail of permit applications that became a trail of prohibitions, which in turn became a trail of tribulations. At one point we considered dropping the idea of enclosing the balcony, but it was too late. Dorit was already spoiling for the fight of her life, immersed in the effort to conquer the mountain of documents, forms and files (including the "pink file" - to this day we have no clue what it is about), engineering blueprints and written approvals from neighbors, the civil defense and the fire department - to conquer this mountain or die, as a law-abiding citizen, trying. After two years of running hither and thither, Dorit won and the balcony was enclosed.
If we had given up, we, too, would have managed somehow. After all, we could have easily done without an enclosed balcony. But: "What will someone do for whom the building permit is very urgent and important to the life of his family and his business?" That was the question I asked in May 2007. And I replied: "I'll tell you what he would do," I wrote. "Either he would blow it off and build anyway or he would pay a bribe." That is what has to happen when rules are imposed that the public cannot abide by. At the end of that column, I formulated "Sarid's Third Law" (the first two are in the licensing process, we shall see how long it takes until they are approved): "The law is iron-clad," I wrote. "When you go to the despicable bureaucracy, take your wallet with you." We did not.
Now it may be revealed: Halfway through our very own Via Dolorosa, I considered calling our mayor, Ron Huldai, who had pledged at the time "to ease the cumbersome and bureaucratic process of obtaining building permits," as he put it. I wanted to tell him what was happening right under his nose. But on second thought, I said to myself: Eyes has he but he sees not, a nose has he but he smells not.
Every citizen in the country and every resident of the city is laughing and crying at the thought of who gives the permits, who is responsible here for the laws and for proper and clean administration; laugh, and yet cry.
Yesterday it was reported that Israel had gone down three more rungs in the international scale of corruption. Is that the same ladder whose top rung reaches heaven, and that Israel is dreaming of?
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