Holyland and Israel’s Commons, The Government’s Song

israel army base iaf air force construction projectA real estate scandal in Jerusalem reveals Israel’s government’s dangerous stance on the privatization of land development, and use of open spaces, Yosef argues.

As the Israeli press reveals one new real estate scandal after another including but not limited to the Holyland complex in Jerusalem, the ease with which “developers” were able to purchase zoning clearances through the payment of bribes from leading public officials continues to stun the society. In an article in Haaretz (April 22, 2010, p. 11), Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is reported to have commented on both the scandals and pending government legislation to further liberalize the approval process for building projects by stating:

“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.”

The comments reveals much about the government’s ideological commitments to resource use in the country, part of the general “reform” instituted by Israeli governments since the first Likud-led government came to power in 1977. The party and its allies advocate the predominance of the free market system (see the Likud’s Economic Outlook). In its grand rush to privatize land use in Israel, the government now seeks to further enable free market forces to wrest control of the country’s land resources for private development.

The legislation is not without opposition within the Netanyahu government. In a speech delivered at the Green Globe Awards (given by the Israeli environmental umbrella organization Life and Environment) ceremony on Earth Day (April 22, 2010), Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan was reported to have said that the intended legislation was “a complete violation of the balance between development and the need to conserve the environment. If it passes in its present format, we can expect to have lots of ‘Holylands’” (as reported in Haaretz, April 23, 2010, p.1).

With “Holylands” already coming right and left, it is clear that the free market reform already instituted is not safeguarding Israel’s land-based resources. Among the suspected bribe takers are stewards at the highest levels of the Israel Lands Administration, as well as the senior politicians noted in the press.

Israelis have a knack for doing all things, constructive and less so, better than others and the current government seeks to epitomize the approach to natural resources that have failed elsewhere: privatize, give market forces free rein thereby allowing the elephants to feed themselves and the sparrows will enjoy the crumbs.

This free market approach reached its apex with the American mortgage crisis of 2008-2009 which triggered the global recession. US banks were grandly able to do their own bidding unimpeded by oversight agencies and sold mortgages for a song, passing on the debt until the system collapsed. The Obama administration is seeking to put mechanisms in place to limit the liberty with which financial institutions can engage in such activities. The Bank of Israel also seeks to limit the chicaneries of the country’s banks and the tycoons that own them.

The Netanyahu regime with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz as its economic spearhead is bent on liberating the market system from any impediment — social, institutional, environmental as well as economic — in order to make the country as safe as possible for the private sector.

So intent is Steinitz in coddling to private interests that he recently bitterly criticized the Supreme Court for halting the start of operations at a high-tech private prison. Steinitz contended that by so doing the judiciary was acting against the country’s economic interests. Quite explicitly, Steinitz identifies the country’s interest with those of its plutocrats, in this case Lev Leviev of the Africa Israel real estate conglomerate, that built the prison, now a white elephant.

Not at the expense of open spaces, say the greens

Israeli environmental activists have been resisting the free marketers’ attempt to make further inroads on the country’s ecologically sensitive areas and open spaces including stretches of the country’s shoreline and beaches (most notably the struggle against the building of a hotel complex at the Palmachim beach Near Rishon LeZion.

There are numerous other cases of developers riding roughshod over the country’s open spaces — include one within walking distance of this writer’s home near Nahal Halilim, outside of Jerusalem. At the mouth of the wadi a developer intends to build a complex of thirty villas, a country club and a second shopping center all on the most congested site in Mevasseret Tzion, a residential community. The district planning commission has given the developer permission to build the project. A citizens’ group has gone to court to stop the development, which will cause serious harm to the environmental reserve and aggravate existing urban ills if implemented.

The government’s intended legislation is intended to ease the ability of private concerns to erect such projects in the name of building a “strong” economy and enable unchecked private enterprise. Such policy, which the Netanyahu government and its supporters in the private sector are intent on imposing effectively elevates private interests to the rank of national priorities. By so doing it acts to entrust the national commons of this resource-poor land to speculation and profiteering adorned in the bunting of state imperative. The interests of the society and the welfare of the environment stand in stark contradiction to the retrograde policy, a speedway to ruin.

There are, of course, alternatives to the free market approach to development including many that involve citizen participation and environmental protection. It is up to blue-and-white greens to put this on the public’s agenda — before the country becomes the private domain of capital interests.

Dr. Yosef Gotlieb, a geographer, wrote Development, Environment and Global Dysfunction (1996). He is on the faculty of David Yellin College in Jerusalem.

Read more on green topics related to this article:
Battle of the Beach Revisited at Palmachim
Holyland’s Monster on the Mountain in Jerusalem, Built With Bribes
Israel Celebrates Earth Day 2009
Israel Celebrates Earth Day With Earth Hour 2010

Above image: another Israeli army base, this time for the air force. Image via europedistrict

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2 thoughts on “Holyland and Israel’s Commons, The Government’s Song”

  1. joel says:

    But thanks to our government we can’t even build a house.
    By the why it’s a nice article

  2. annodomini77 says:

    “The supply is endless, the wealth from all its treasures!” (Bible, Nahum 2:9)”4 The chariots storm through the streets, rushing back and forth through the squares. They look like flaming torches; they dart about like lightning.” (Bible, Nahum 2:4)There was a General in the U.S. Military who became Governor of New Mexico from 1878-1881. He wrote the book Ben Hur. It was the best selling novel until 1936. It was made into a movie in 1959.In the Movie Ben Hur. Ben Hur grew up with Messala. Messala grew up and became a Roman Centurion. Ben Hur grew up to be a Prince of Juda. Then they Clashed. They put each other in various prisons and finally had a chariot race. Both Got Hurt. Then when they watched the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and Heard him say Father Forgive them for they know not what they do. They both became Christian and dropped there swards, and stopped fighting. There was a man named Saul of Tarsus who who did much worse than what Messalla did to Ben Hur and much worse than what Ben Hur did to Messala to the Christians. But Jesus made him a Christian. And Jesus made him The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament Gospel. “28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Bible, New Testament, Galatians 3:28-29)”The Dispensationalist teaching of prophecy takes Jesus from the center of all prophecy and replaces our blessed Lord with the state of Israel. In Luke 24:44, Jesus says, “All things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Dispensationalists, in effect, have recast this section of God's Word to say, “All things written about the state of Israel in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Furthermore as Luther points out, Israel, even in the old Testament, has always referred to those who believed and followed God, not to a particular race of people or to a certain geographical area. The Psalms regularly refer to Israel. When the Psalmist is referring to Israel, he is pointing to those whom God has promised to bless. In there false understanding of scripture, the dispensationalists have misled millions to believe that the Psalms are referring to God blessing the state of Israel, when in fact, the Psalms refer to a blessing God wants to give to all who are worshiping him. In other words, the dispensationalist theology twists and redirects God's promises of blessings from children who are his through Baptism to those they believe are his through geography. Among themselves Dispensationalists would agree that the leading schools teaching their interpretation of the Scriptures would be Moody Bible institute in Chicago Illinois, and Dallas theological Seminary in Texas. One of the founders of Fuller Theological Seminary was also a major promoter of Dispensationalism.” (Good News Magazine Prophecy Issue 35, Concordia Mission Society, P.O. box 8555 St Louis MO 63126)”24These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” (Bible, New Testament, Galatians 4:24-26)”I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Bible, New Testament, Revelation 2:9)”9I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” (Bible, New Testament, Revelation 3:9)Jesus lived in all sorts of holes. The grave is one of them. Foxes have holes. (New Testament, Matthew 8:20) King Herod is a Fox. (New Testament, Luke 13:32) Jesus brought us out of all of them.”He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Bible, New Testament, Colossians 2:13-14)”13By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” (Bible, New Testament, Hebrews 8:13)Law with its religion is Satan if You don't have Christ and the Gospel. In fact we are no longer under the law but under Grace. “14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14) “13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”[a]” (Bible, New Testament, Galatians 3:13) Law is like a hole. Law is like a Cave. Law is like a Mountain. “12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Bible, New Testament, Ephesians 6:12) Saul of Tarsus was a member of the Synagogue of Satan. He calls himself the “chief of sinners” But God made him The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the Gospel in the New Testament. “15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Bible, New Testament,Romans 11:15)”4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Bible, New Testament, Romans 4:4-5)So we gain the Spirit of God not by observing the law. (New Testament, Galatians, 3)”16″For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Bible, New Testament, John 3:16) Men readily believe what they want to believe. (Caesar)Saint Augustine said that if you want to believe you believe.You have right standing before God.You don't have to jump through any hoops.Jesus did.He died for you and rose again. Heaven is your Home.

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