Regavim initiated and participated in discussions in Knesset committees, dealing with the strengthening of Israeli sovereignty in the North and ensuring the equal application of the law there. We had the privilege of supporting the farmers and making improvements in a law that will enhance deterrence against incursions into their land. We thwarted an attempt to impose a municipal tax on cattle-raisers who guard state land through grazing there. We petitioned the Supreme Court on various issues, and acted together with government ministries and local authorities to increase law enforcement against illegal construction in the North.
In the Legal Field
The obligation of the authorities to report illegal construction: The first tool that the state needs in order to supervise illegal construction in Israel is up-to-date information regarding illegal construction. The law states that the Interior Minister must receive updates every month on illegal construction carried out in the areas controlled by local and regional councils, so that it can set policy regarding planning and construction, allocate resources and set priorities. Disgracefully and in an ongoing manner, many local authorities do not carry out this procedure. After we petitioned the Supreme Court on this matter, the judges issued a conditional order that demands that the state explain how it intends to enforce this law. This is an ongoing process….
Help from the Police with Carrying out Demolitions: With the authority of a government decision, a number of years ago a special unity was formed in the police department, the Administration for Coordinating Enforcement Activities, whose area of responsibility is to provide police aid in demolishing illegal construction. In practice, in the large majority of cases, requests for help are not answered and the demolition orders expire, the illegal builders continue to laugh all the way to their illegally constructed villas. We worked with the Ministry of Internal Defense and the police in order to make certain that the police, including all its branches, carry out its role in maintaining the rule of law throughout the entire country.
Fulfilling Court Orders: How would you feel if you were a judge who issued an order to the enforcement authorities requests and discovered that this order, like many, many others issued by judges, was not enforced by those same authorities? It is reasonable to assume that your motivation to continue issuing orders like this would not be very high. This is exactly what happens in the North. Hundreds of judicial procedures go on, at great cost to the taxpayer, so that at the end of the process the judicial decision is not carried out. We submitted petitions in this area, to require the enforcement authorities to carry out judicial orders and not make a mockery of the court. Parallel to the petitions that were submitted, we are carrying on some 50 correspondences throughout the North regarding illegal construction and incursions into state lands.
Violent Incidents in Peki’in: At the end of 2007, a number of serious disturbances broke out in the Druze village of Peki’in. In the course of these disturbances 27 policemen were injured, homes of Jews who lived in the village were set alight, and a policewoman was kidnapped.
After three years of foot-dragging, the State Attorney decided not to take legal actions against the rioters, even though there was sufficient material against them. We have lodged a petition where we are demanding that the authorities fulfill their duty in maintaining the rule of law, to bring the rioters to justice and to provide a satisfying explanation as to why they decided not to take action.
In the judicial field and Knesset committees: We initiated and participated in tens of discussions in the various Knesset committees that deal with law enforcement, the development of the Galilee, exercising Israeli sovereignty over the North and with the functioning of the planning and enforcement authorities.
As part of our activity in the Knesset, we are proud of the update of a law that we initiated that helped many farmers all over Israel who suffer serious damage as a result of incursions into agricultural and grazing land. Incursion into grazing pastures is defined in the law books as a misdemeanor, which provides for a relatively light punishment and does not serve as a deterrent to criminals. At our initiative, together with MK Ayelet Shaked, the definition was changed to a crime, which allows a more significant and serious punishment. As a result of the change in the law, the priorities of the enforcement authorities regarding these illegal activities are expected to change, as is its deterrence value.
Taxing Pasture Lands: In recent years a number of local authorities attempted to collect municipal taxes from agriculturists on pasturelands – a step that would have brought about the destruction of the grazing industry in Israel. Unknowingly to the cow, while they enjoy themselves by chewing their cud in the pasture, they serve as a critical tool in maintaining open spaces against natural disasters and takeover by criminal elements. Levying taxes on pastureland would put a huge burden on cattle-raisers who today are already struggling to survive agricultural theft, the difficult climate and lack of profits. The Regavim legal department put together an opinion that provides reasons for the un-justifiability of the taxation of pastureland. We are pleased that the government legal advisor accepted our opinion, which gained the status of a court decision.
Administrative Orders as Opposed to Court Orders: Local authorities choose to “think small” in their actions against illegal construction by means of the famous Israeli bureaucracy. Instead of issuing administrative orders that are a quick and effective tool against illegal construction, the authorities begin the lengthy and complicated procedure of issuing basic court orders. We are acting to change the procedures of the unit for enforcing property law, as well as with the authorities themselves, in order to limit the use of these court orders as much as possible.
On the Heights: Thousands of acres around the Druze villages on the Golan Heights are not registered in the Land Registry. This gives rise to planning chaos and intensifies land disputes, illegal construction and the invasion of state land.