A report by Revital Hovel in Friday's Hebrew edition of Haaretz about a small stand on the Givat Olga beach in Hadera that expanded over the years to become the Georgy Beach restaurant is not a local news story. It's not a story about Givat Olga, and it's not a story about one man, Hani Gerby, a Caesarea resident and reputed senior crime figure in the area, who managed to turn a small business into a 305-square-meter restaurant on the water.
It's actually a story about the weakness of local authorities and their inability to impose the law on some aggressive individuals. It's a story about the banality of corruption.
Georgy Beach bypassed every possible regulation. The restaurant was constructed without building permits and since 1993 has been operating without a business license. According to the Interior Ministry, it is also not paying municipal arnona taxes and has run up huge arrearages. A report issued by the Environmental Protection Ministry said the restaurant has also illegally tapped into municipal electricity lines. A lawyer from the Hadera municipality has calculated the restaurant's electricity usage at NIS 153,571.80 - a sum that is being funded by Hadera residents.
Law enforcement authorities say the reason this has been allowed to go on is the "special" relationship between Gerby and the Hadera municipality. In a legal battle that Gerby is currently waging in an effort to protect his restaurant, the municipality is taking his side against all the other government authorities.
The Hadera municipality's director general, Iki Tzur, declared that the city "has no objection in principle" and even wishes to facilitate the use of snack bars. For his part, the city's lawyer, Yoram Cohen, said the municipality also "has no objection in principle" to the debt that the restaurant has racked up for electricity consumption.
The strange connection between the Hadera municipality and an individual the police have characterized as "the head of a crime organization and a major intelligence target" raises suspicions. It has resulted in a situation in which law enforcement authorities, the Interior Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Israel Tax Authority are trying to enforce the law against someone who is blatantly violating it. At the same time, local government is protecting him, possibly indicating a relationship that exceeds the bounds of the law.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai must order an investigation into this situation. Hadera residents, who are funding this injustice out of their own pockets, should not be abandoned in the face of aggression and the abuse of authority.
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