Land Agency Chief Yaron Bibi Quits After Rift With Atias

Bibi accuses Atias of improper interference in the Israel Lands Administration's work, while Atias complains the agency is functioning poorly under Bibi.

Israel Lands Administration director Yaron Bibi resigned yesterday amid differences of opinion with Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias.

Bibi announced his resignation three days after a meeting with Atias, to whom he reports, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yaron Bibi - Emil Salman - 07.07.2011
Emil Salman

Ostensibly the three men were to discuss reform plans for the ILA and a quicker pace for ILA land sales, but it is thought Atias was unhappy with the ILA's performance.

Though Bibi referred in his resignation letter to good working relations with Atias, he also hinted that the situation was not so simple.

"Even if there are differences of opinion between the minister [Atias] and the ILA, I do not believe the proper way to clarify them is on the pages of one newspaper or another," Bibi wrote. "Under the circumstances that were created, I don't believe I have the ability to complete the reform [at the ILA] while meeting marketing targets."

Bibi has accused Atias of improper interference in the ILA's work, while Atias has complained that the agency under Bibi has functioned poorly. There is evidence supporting both.

It is understood that the ILA told the Justice Ministry of alleged intervention by Atias and his aide, Binyamin Dreifuss, in ILA tenders. Procedural rules allow the minister to intervene on general policy matters but not regarding specific property. In one case, Atias met with the IDF coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, over the allocation of ILA land to a disabled IDF colonel from Moshav Amikam.

Bibi refused to attend the meeting, saying he had been hit by severe criticism over the controversy involving Yoav Galant's use of land at Amikam, when the general was a candidate for IDF chief of staff. Bibi said he would only deal with the new request in accordance with set procedures.

Atias said he got involved to address bureaucratic impediments at the ILA. He painted a picture of an ILA in which citizens' inquiries go unanswered and tender-offer envelopes go unopened for months.