Dankner Loses Bid to Get Building Violations Quashed

After loss in Haifa District Court, Danny Dankner's lawyer says he might appeal to Supreme Court.

Building code violations at the Danny Dankner family villa in Atlit will not be approved retroactively, the Haifa District Court ruled Sunday, with the judge accusing the former Bank Hapoalim chairman of "showing blatant contempt for the law."

Judge Bracha Bar-Ziv said the home had no building permit and that attempts by the Carmel coast planning and building authorities to retroactively approve the violations were invalid.

Bar-Ziv was ruling in a petition submitted by Dankner against a demand by the Israel Lands Administration that he evacuate and demolish the villa, even though it was built 20 years ago and the ILA never took action. It currently houses Dankner's ex-wife, Shoshana, and their children.

"This petition is meant to be rejected if only because the petitioners' hands are not clean and no administrative court should grant a remedy to such petitioners," Bar-Ziv wrote in her ruling.

"Illegal construction has become a national plague, and in our case we're talking about petitioners who showed blatant contempt for the law ... with one of the petitioners a central figure in the economy who was entrusted with managing one of the country's largest banks."

The Dankners' attorney, Joseph Benkel, said that after he examines the ruling he might advise his client to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"On the surface, it seems that with all due respect, there were several substantive mistakes in this ruling, that the most obvious of them is treating the home as if it had been built without a permit, when this whole process relates to minor building violations involving the courtyard's external wall," Benkel said.

At the site, several huts, totaling 80 square meters, were built in 1962 to house workers. In the early 1990s, the Dankner family moved to the site, enlarging the huts into an estate with several residential wings, a tennis court, pool and winery.

The built-up area now totals 700 square meters and the surrounding wall encloses five dunams (1.25 acres ). According to a declaration of wealth Dankner submitted to Bank Hapoalim to receive a loan, the house was valued at NIS 15 million.

The dispute between the Dankners and the state centers around whether the area is zoned for industry or residential construction. The Dankners insist they were issued a building permit, but they have not been able to produce it, nor has a copy been found. The Dankners say the documents went missing when Atlit joined the Carmel Coast Regional Council and the planning committee moved its offices.

On this issue, Bar-Ziv ruled Sunday that the burden of proof is on the Dankners, not the local authorities, who say they never issued a permit.

In May 2008, the local planning committee approved Dankner's request to retroactively approve the building violations. Last year Haaretz revealed that two weeks before the committee voted, Bank Hapoalim, then still headed by Dankner, gave a local school a donation of NIS 350,000. The Interior Ministry rescinded the approval, which is why Dankner petitioned the Haifa court.