Israeli Army Eats Up Land, Air and Radio Frequencies, Says Special Panel

In some areas next to defense firms and army bases, residential construction is prohibited entirely, the Locker committee notes.

The IDF's Unit 8200's base in central Israel.
The IDF's Unit 8200's base in central Israel.Credit: David Bachar

The Locker committee report on defense spending takes the military to task for using too much of Israel’s land resources and radio frequencies.

The panel found that the Defense Ministry has direct control over 40% of the country’s land. It also has a direct influence on planning for another 40% because it has the power to place restrictions on civilian use of land in areas it judges to have national security implications.

In some areas next to defense firms and army bases, residential construction is prohibited entirely. When it is allowed, defense officials often place height limitations on buildings to prevent anyone from looking into installations.

“The Defense Ministry is even represented in government planning bodies and influences their decisions,” the Locker committee said in the report, which was released Tuesday. It appears that defense officials take into account defense needs exclusively when they craft planning and building policy, rather than the needs of the economy, the panel added.

“Whenever the defense establishment’s opposition is accepted, it creates delays, sometimes major ones, in developing land resources, which has broader economic implications,” the committee said.

Meanwhile, the panel said the army’s use of radio frequencies was inefficient and hurt the civilian sector as well as the telecommunications and media industries. One example cited is Bluetooth, short-range radio technology, which arrived in Israel years after it was available elsewhere in the world.

Likewise, tenders for fourth-generation cellphone service were long delayed and Israel has not been able to fully exploit Wifi technology, the committee said.

With the army using so much of the band itself, often needlessly, mobile companies, broadcasters and other security arms like the police are crowded into fewer frequencies, it said.

Two government committees are responsible for assigning radio frequencies, but in both, defense officials have a majority of votes. In addition, the army is the only user that doesn’t pay for its frequencies, while cellphone companies typically pay hundreds of millions of shekels.

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