The Knesset Interior and Environmental Protection Committee approved in its second and third reading, on Sunday, April 2, an amendment to the Planning and Building Law that will make its enforcement more stringent and increase penalties for “illegal construction.” The amendment, sponsored by far-right lawmakers, calls for restricting the discretion of courts regarding the enforcement of construction violations and expanding the powers of administrative entities, especially national planning and planning enforcement entities, which deal with construction without a permit. The amendment will also increase fines and prison terms for building offenses.
In recent weeks the committee panel met with government representatives in order to modify the proposed amendment and make it less harsh, and reached the consensus that it would only come into force six months after its passage. Residential buildings in violation of the new law will only fall under its purview if they were constructed during the past two years. Older homes will be subject to the previous legislation.
Since work on the amended legislation began, it sparked anger from the Arab communities in Israel. Committee chairman, MK David Amsalem (Likud), said that the significance of the bill is in the deterrence it creates. “The Arab population should understand that the state wants to be run according to the rule of law,” he said.
Hadash MK Abdallah Abu Ma’aruf (Joint List), a leading member of the Communist Party of Israel, said that the amended legislation represents the continuation of the discriminatory policies by Netanyahu’s government of Arab citizens of Israel. He added that its sole purpose is to demolish homes and impose “cruel and heavy fines.” “This government is continuing its policy of deprivation towards over 20% of its citizens by attempting to advance a law whose goal is to demolish the homes of people who built on their privately owned land,” he said. “The state has been purposely delaying the approval of master plans in Arab cities for a long time, thereby ignoring their natural population growth and the needs of those communities. The state should regularize these homes immediately and put an end to the ongoing racist policy against its Arab citizens,” he added.