Kahlon Should Not Be Allowed to Appoint New Parks Authority Director, Environmental Org. Claims

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Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks at a meeting in the city hall of Ma'alot, northern Israel, May 19, 2016.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaks at a meeting in the city hall of Ma'alot, northern Israel, May 19, 2016.Credit: Gil Eliahu

A major environmental organization claims that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon should not be permitted to appoint a new director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority because of a potential conflict of interest.

Kahlon, who is acting environmental protection minister since the resignation of Avi Gabay, oversees the Planning Administration and the Israel Lands Authority — both agencies responsible for development that are often in sharp conflict with the parks authority, notes Life and Environment, an umbrella organization comprising 130 green groups in Israel.

In addition, the organization argues that Kahlon would be violating the attorney general’s instructions regarding appointments made by acting ministers.

Last week the Environmental Protection Ministry announced that it was setting up a search committee to find candidates to replace Shaul Goldstein, the current nature and parks authority director, whose five-year term winds up at the end of the year. The search committee is headed by the ministry's director-general Yisrael Dancziger.

Mossi Raz, Life and Environment’s chairman, contacted Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and expressed his support for giving Goldstein another five-year term because of his environmental protection work. Raz also raised a number of points regarding the propriety of the search process.

According to Raz, for an acting minister who is slated to be replaced to try to appoint a director for a government authority through a search committee is not in keeping with the attorney general’s rules regarding appointments during election periods that limit such appointments. Raz argued that although the rules refer to election periods, in principle such restraint should apply to any transitional period, out of concern that personal and party considerations will play a role in the appointment process.

Life and Environment also stressed the conflict of interest inherent in Kahlon’s differing responsibilities, which cast doubt on whether he should be permitted to intervene in the appointment of the new parks authority director. Environmentalists fear that a candidate who feels indebted to Kahlon or his party may undermine the park authority's ability to remain independent and professional in the unavoidable conflicts between developers and green groups.

Environmentalists have often clashed with the nature and parks authority as well, because of differences in approach to construction plans. But Goldstein, Raz noted, has been very cooperative on numerous issues, such as blocking construction and sand mining along Palmahim Beach.