Deputy AG: No Deal to Halt Demolitions of Illegally Built Homes

TheMarker reported that Netanyahu and Finance Minister Kahlon decided to agree to the freeze two months ago, but kept it quiet in order to not upset right-wing coalition members

A bulldozer demolishes a building in a Bedouin village in Israel.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Any agreement to halt demolition of illegally built homes in Israel has not reached the enforcement authorities, according to a letter written by Deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz to MK Akram Hasoon (Kulanu) on Monday.

This comes after TheMarker on Sunday published a February 15 letter Hasoon had written to mayors announcing a “historic decision to freeze demolition orders on private land belonging to all citizens – Arabs, Jews and Druze – for a period of two years.”

If true, such a decision would provide relief primarily to Arab citizens of Israel, since illegal construction is much more prevalent in Arab communities.

TheMarker reported that there had been no other official publication of the decision, which applies to all homes built without proper permits on the homeowner’s private land and within the jurisdiction of the homeowner’s municipality.

“There was not, and there is not, any agreement by enforcement bodies on an all-encompassing freeze on enforcement against illegal construction, which the Supreme Court has called a ‘plague,’” Kaminitz wrote to Hasoon.

TheMarker reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon decided to agree to the freeze two months ago, but kept it quiet in order to not upset right-wing coalition members.

Hasoon is a member of Israel’s Arabic-speaking Druze minority and Kahlon’s party.

In Hasoon’s original letter, he stated that municipalities should use the two-year freeze to draft municipal plans to enable legal construction, and that the decision had been made with Netanyahu and Kahlon, at his request.

Hasoon stated in his letter that citizens who built homes on their own private property within their municipality’s jurisdictions would not be made to destroy illegal constructions.

However, Kaminitz’s letter indicated that any such decision was not coordinated with law enforcement agencies.

“As you know, the attorney general, as head of the state prosecution, is the exclusive authority empowered to rule on law-enforcement procedures, and no one else – senior though he may be – has the authority to order the attorney general to freeze such action,” stated Kaminitz.

Kaminitz confirmed, though, that enforcement against illegal construction built outside municipal territories has been given priority. Likewise illegal construction on land slated for such use takes a lower priority, he wrote.

Despite Kaminitz’s letter, TheMarker has published details of a case where a district court accepted an appeal based on Hasoon’s letter.

The case related to a demolition order against an illegal structure in Lod. The district court ordered the lower magistrate’s court to rehear the case.

The Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry refused to respond to Sunday’s initial report in TheMarker. On Monday, though, the PMO said it conducted an inquiry and found that there had been no such agreement between Netanyahu and Kahlon.

“The prime minister calls for equal enforcement of laws, and it will continue to be this way,” the PMO stated.