Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Cheshvan 5766 - November 23, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Interior Ministry Restores Land Allocation Authority to Elected Representatives

By Betzalel Kahn

The Interior Ministry altered the regulations on the formation of distribution committees at the local authorities as well as a decision by the director of the ministry. Following the petition filed by Betzedek it was decided to reinstate the elected officials to the Distribution Committee at the local authorities, replacing the unelected city officials recently appointed.

Anyone who has ever walked the corridors of city hall is all too familiar with the experience of encountering unelected officials who pile up an endless series of obstacles on the way to approving land allocations for public institutions. "This may be done to justify the salary or an attempt to wear away at the appellants' power at a time when they are struggling under the burden of student crowding," said Betzedek Director Attorney Rabbi Mordechai Green. Following a Betzedek appeal, the Interior Ministry determined elected officials should be included in all proceedings to allocate land for public institutions.

The City Locating Committee locates areas designated for public use in the area adjacent to every area of land and designates the land or building for public use, such as schools, botei knesses, mikvo'os, etc. as it deems appropriate. Although the Distribution Committee's decisions are only considered recommendations to the local authority plenum, the council is obligated to approve their decisions or provide grounds for its refusal, and the refusal is subject to court review.

In the past every locating committee was comprised of five members: three members of the local authority, the legal advisor and the general accountant. The Interior Ministry's previous director general, who was appointed by Minister Avraham Poraz (Shinui), issued instructions to remove all of the elected officials from the distributing committees.

Chareidi organizations were the primary victims since government institutions and supporting organizations (including the national-religious sector) are generally recognized as institutions belonging to the local authority. Therefore they receive land holdings from the authority without the need for going through the distributing committee.

Betzedek, founded by Agudas Yisroel of America, filed a High Court petition pointing out the illegality of the previous director general's directive. In the petition Attorney Green demonstrated the special significance of the distributing committees. Improper decisions by these committees can lead to the construction of institutions unsuited to the area and block the allocation of lands or buildings of great importance for meeting the public's needs in a certain area, as took place at several local authorities, causing irreversible and intolerable damage to the population of the area.

Betzedek attacked the trampling of democratic values, noting that the public's elected representatives, the members of the local authority, are no longer authorized to make decisions for the sake of the residents based on the policy they espouse, for according to the new regulation the unelected officials set the policy, thereby thwarting the voters' wishes to lead their lives as they see fit. The damage to the public can be critical since determining policy in every respective location involves considering the public's real needs, the land reserves required for future plans, etc. Any tendentious decision in these matters can harm the area for many years, even altering its character, the composition of the population and its spiritual institutions.

The new director general at the Interior Ministry had to respond to the appeal. In reaction he recently announced new directives according to which local authorities may set up a new subcommittee composed solely of elected members of the local authority. The subcommittee will be authorized to recommend to the city council why they upheld or denied the distributing committee's decisions.

Recently legal advisors at various local authorities, including the City of Jerusalem's legal advisor, issued directives in keeping with the spirit of the change and it appears the problem has been thoroughly remedied from the perspective of the chareidi public.


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