PM: Rethink How Planning Is Supervised

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to reexamine proposed reforms to planning and building laws initiated about a year ago.

The prime minister said he ordered the review "in light of the possible implications of the cases currently being investigated by the Israel Police." The statement was a reference to the Holyland graft case, which involves allegations of bribery of public officials to facilitate and expand the development of the Holyland residential project in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu stressed that the review is not being directed at the legislation itself, but rather on oversight mechanisms in place to guarantee proper public procedure and administration, and the overall integrity of the process.

"I am still bothered by the possibility that, on local planning and building committees, pockets of activity would remain that are not consistent with the overarching principle of maintaining integrity," the prime minister said.

A significant part of the corruption involved in the planning and construction process in the country stems from those who bribe civil servants and public officials to circumvent the bureaucracy involved in getting planning approval, explained Netanyahu. "To reduce this corruption," he said, "it is very important to remove bureaucratic barriers and to make the planning and building process faster and more efficient. That's exactly what we have done with the proposed legislation to reform planning and building procedure."

One of the objections expressed over Netanyahu's proposed reform is that the local planning and building committees would be given more power, at a time in which they are regarded as the most problematic element in the process, as has also been suggested by allegations in the Holyland case.

The Prime Minister's Office said the additional review which Netanyahu ordered would be carried out shortly, under the auspices of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which discussed and passed the proposed planning and building bill.

The reexamination will not lengthen the approval process for the bill, said the PMO.

Deputy Attorney General Sarit Dana, who was one of those involved in formulating the proposed law, explained for the first time the principles that guided the team that wrote the new law yesterday.

Dana addressed a conference in Kiryat Ono yesterday to tell them of the process of writing the 600-section law.

She said a local element was missing in planning and zoning, and one of the guiding principles was to give local authorities more say.

"There is no local planning in Israel," and in most countries such decisions are made at a local level, said Dana.