Nature Society Asks Mazuz to Halt Nitzan Construction

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz yesterday to prevent the construction of temporary residential compounds in the community of Nitzan to be used for evacuees from the Gaza Strip. SPNI said that there is no master plan for the area allowing agricultural land to be rezoned for residential construction.

"The project is being fast-tracked," SPNI said, "far from the eyes of the public." SPNI said it would petition the High Court of Justice if Mazuz did not intervene.

According to SPNI attorney Hagit Luz-On, the Disengagement Authority and the Defense Ministry plan to establish two "temporary camps" at Nitzan, one consisting of 350 housing units, and the other of 600 units. The infrastructure required for this housing - electricity, sewage, water, etc., would result in irreversible damage to the open spaces in the area, Luz-On wrote in her letter to Mazuz. "The implementation of such major illegal construction would be unworthy of the State of Israel," Luz-On said.

Proponents said the new neighborhoods at Nitzan are permissible because of changes to building regulations that permit evacuees to build. However, according to a legal opinion presented for the SPNI by attorney Benyamin Heiman, the regulations authorize construction of individual structures on agricultural land, not the establishment of a whole neighborhood or community.

"Exemption from the requirement for a permit does not mean exemption from planning," Heiman wrote. "On the contrary, in cases where a permit is normally required and has been waived, the importance of planning is even greater."

According to Heiman, if the interior minister ordered the construction of the temporary compounds while relying on the regulations, he has exceeded his authority.