Local Police Chief Who Oversaw Home Demolitions Built Rooftop Bar Without Permit

Structure was set up by a friend of the Border Police commander; police say permit was issued, but fee wasn't paid because of 'human error.'

The Sharon police station.
Tomer Appelbaum

Border Police commander Maj. Gen. Yaakov Shabtai initiated the construction of an events area for policemen on the roof of the Sharon district police station, where he had previously been commander, without the required permits, according to the Kfar Sava municipality and the local fire department.

The structure was built by a friend of Shabtai’s who got the job without a bidding process or an exemption from such a procedure.

The police claim that the structure got a permit, “but because of human error, the fee hasn’t been paid yet.” The municipality, however, insists it never received a request for a permit. Because it is a wooden structure meant to accommodate events with up to 100 people, it also requires a permit from the fire department. But the Kfar Sava fire department said, “the structure is illegal and it has no permits.” Shabtai could not be reached for comment despite numerous attempts.

Shabtai knows a thing or two about illegal construction. In 2010 he was appointed operations officer of a police administration set up to help forces demolish illegal structures in places where violent resistance was expected, particularly in Arab communities. After being appointed Sharon district police commander in 2013, he was also responsible for home demolitions in Kalansua, Tira, and Taibeh.

The Sharon district covers a large area from Petah Tikva to Hadera. When Shabtain took up the project, many officers warned him against building without permits, while others wondered where he’d get the estimated 250,000 shekels needed to finance the project.

Nevertheless, the wooden structure went up in January 2014, complete with plaster walls, a deck floor, a bar, and a stage.

The builder was the Ginobar company which does landscaping and woodwork and whose owner, Tuki Naftali, is a police volunteer. “Koby [Shabtai] and I are very good friends,” Naftali told Haaretz this week. “I know him from 2001 as a volunteer and from then we’re good friends.”

He says Shabtai was not involved in arranging the work. “Someone contacted me from construction in the police and I told him I do that kind of thing. He asked for suggestions because he had a lot of work for me, and we connected.”

After the job was done, he was told that he wouldn’t be getting paid by the Israel Police, but by another company, R.A.Y. Ltd, from Upper Nazareth. The police said that R.A.Y. – a construction engineering firm that serves major government customers, including the police – engaged Naftali as a subcontractor, so there was no need for a bidding process.

R.A.Y. has a different story. One of the owners, Boris Weinberg, said he doesn’t remember Naftali and that his firm didn’t build the rooftop structure. “One can assume that it was part of a larger project that had money left over and they used it for a different project in the district, which was done by the subcontractor [Naftali]. He got 165,000 shekels from me including VAT.”

But the project's estimated cost was 250,000 shekels; it isn’t clear where the rest of the money came from.

The police, however, are required to solicit bids for projects of this type. When asked for the bidding documents or the exemption, police spokesman Cmdr. Merav Lapidot said, “The tender went out in 2012, look for it in the tenders yourself.” But Shabtai wasn’t yet commander in Kfar Sava, in 2012.

Pressed again about the tender, the official police response was that the R.A.Y. company had been in its employ since 2012, after the firm won a tender, and “In the framework of the tender it did several jobs as part of the Israel Police’s construction program, some of them through subcontractors, including the pergola in the Sharon district.”

A larger concern is the fact that the structure was being built without permits, which is illegal. The police call the structure a pergola and insist it received all the necessary permits. But apparently the police were relying on a one-off permit that local police obtained to hold a rooftop event in January 2014. Numerous events have been held there since.

The Kfar Sava fire department says a one-time permit is no replacement for a structural permit. The municipality says that while police representatives had been in touch with the engineering department to regularize the built-up area on the roof, “it was made clear to them that the request they’d made in the past was not relevant. To date no request for this type of permit has been received from them.” As a result, “professional inspectors have visited the site and a warning letter will be sent.”