For the second time this year, a plan to increase the land available for housing construction in central Israel has been postponed. The plan, entitled TMA 35, is meant to implement changes touted and promised by Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Housing Minister Uri Ariel, but is stuck in the planning phase and facing opposition from various political factions and environmentalists. Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar has twice made changes to the plan to generate a wider consensus before submitting it to the National Planning and Building Committee for approval.
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During a meeting of the national committee last week, the plan was not mentioned. According to original estimates, it was supposed to be discussed by the national panel in December 2013. But newly appointed Interior Ministry director general Shuki Amrani asked that the discussion be postponed for a month so he could learn the issue. Sources say Amrani, after learning of the controversy surrounding the issue, did not bring it back to the table even after six months in office.
“The Interior Minister and the ministry director general understood that there isn’t a consensus, that the plan is not yet ready, so they decided to take a step back,” one official close to the national committee told TheMarker.
There are two primary issues at the heart of the controversy. The first revolves around the ability of village residents to build extra housing units on their land – which Sa’ar opposes for central Israel, but is more flexible about when it comes to the periphery. Another issue is the amount of construction that would be undertaken in the center.
“The fact is that since Amrani stopped the approval, it hasn’t come back for discussion, and that’s a slap in the face,” said the official.
The Interior Ministry responded: “Claims that the interior minister ordered that discussions on TMA 35 be postponed are baseless. The director general and the chairman of the national committee, Amrani, is the one who sets the agenda for meetings at the national committee.”