The government has transferred authority over the Real Estate Enforcement Division to Ben Gvir

During the government meeting on Sunday, 7/4/24, it was decided to transfer authority over the Real Estate Enforcement Division from the Finance Ministry to the Ministry of National Security under Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. The Real Estate Enforcement Division deals with monitoring and enforcing construction in Israel, including East Jerusalem, but does not operate in the West Bank territories.

The Real Estate Enforcement Division operates under the Amendment to the Planning and Building Law (also known as the Kaminitz Law) since 2017, aimed at enhancing enforcement of building offenses. The division does not replace the supervision and building departments in cities and municipalities but serves as an additional enforcement body with broad powers to impose high fines, confiscate equipment, disconnect water and electricity, and carry out demolitions. The government’s decision is based on the coalition agreement signed between Likud and the Otzma Yehudit party in December 2022 and will be brought for discussion and voting in the Knesset on Tuesday, 16.4.24.

The Attorney General of the Ministry of Interior expressed his position to the government that the Enforcement Division should be in the same place as the planning department (currently under the authority of the Ministry of Interior). The question of building enforcement is linked to planning issues, and all headquarters and planning and enforcement policy work should be within the same framework. Despite the position of the Attorney General of the Ministry of Interior, the government decided to transfer the authority to the Ministry of National Security.

At first glance, the transfer of authority from the Finance Ministry to the Ministry of National Security seems like a technical matter. However, in the explanation provided for the government’s decision, it is explicitly stated that it is part of the fight against crime in Arab society. The Kaminitz Law primarily affects the Arab-Palestinian population in Israel, and a significant part of the work of the land enforcement authority is against illegal construction by Bedouins in the south and against Palestinian construction in East Jerusalem. Since most Bedouin settlements are not recognized by Israeli authorities and many Palestinian-Arab settlements face planning discrimination, much of their construction is considered illegal.

The Real Estate Enforcement Division has the power to enforce against illegal construction in East Jerusalem and conducts demolitions and imposes fines alongside the Jerusalem municipality’s Building Supervision Department. It is important to note that the rate of demolitions in East Jerusalem during the Gaza war and in 2023 overall was higher than in other months or years, and it seems that transferring authority to Ben Gvir will only exacerbate this trend.

Peace Now: It has been unequivocally proven that law enforcement authorities under the responsibility of Itamar Ben Gvir exacerbate tension, violence, and hatred between the state and its citizens. The Real Estate Enforcement Division should operate with integrity and profound sensitivity to our political and social reality. However, it is highly doubtful that this will occur under the authority of Itamar Ben Gvir, the Minister of National Insecurity, who has previously been convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization.