Repeal the Kaminitz Law, Which More Strictly Penalizes Construction Violations
Amendment number 116 to the Planning and Construction Law, 2017-5777, known as the Kaminitz Law, increased and intensified the enforcement of penalization for construction offenses. Among other changes, the amendment set extremely and exceptionally high fines (up to hundreds of thousands of shekels), and expanded the net of those eligible to be penalized for construction violations. Although the amendment has alleged consequences on the enforcement of planning law in all national regions and territories, its most far-reaching implications apply to Arab citizens.
Ahead of the discussion on the Kaminitz Law and its implementation in the Interim Finance Committee, ACRI submitted an appeal (Hebrew) to the committee calling for the law to be repealed and replaced with an open channel of communication with representatives of the Arab public about approval of master plans and authorization of agreements for legal construction in Arab communities, including the possibility of retroactively authorizing existing construction. The appeal (Hebrew) was written by Attorney Sana Ibn Bari. Among the points raised are:
Construction without a permit in Arab communities does not take place in a vacuum, but rather against the backdrop of a decades-long housing and planning crisis, which stems from discriminatory policies against the Arab population and the authorities’ planning failures. Thus illegal construction is carried out due to a lack of available alternatives in order to provide adequate housing for Arab families and youth, whom the government and planning authorities have left without housing solutions for years. The Kaminitz Law completely disregards the existing planning circumstances, from planning failures to the planning system itself, which is responsible for the situation on the ground.
Construction violations in Arab communities cannot be addressed, and enforcement can certainly not be increased, without a just and comprehensive solution to the planning crisis. Authorities’ enforcement and penalization mechanisms are directly intertwined with the fulfillment of their primary legal obligation to provide an adequate planning framework, which enables legal construction in accordance with the population’s housing needs.
The highly costly fines outlined in the law’s recent amendment vastly differ from the customary punitive fees that apply to construction offenses and other fields. In recent months, following initial implementation of the law, dozens of cases have been reported in which fines amount to tens of thousands of shekels. These fines constitute economic ruin for average individuals trying to get by day-to-day and earn a living with dignity.
The process by which these fines are distributed is rapid, uniform, and sweeping. It does not include even minimal procedural protections for citizens who are fined, such as the right to a hearing and capacity to appeal the amount of the fine. The enforcement authorities are not even authorized to consider extenuating or exceptional circumstances, including those that are humanitarian in nature, or circumstances relating to the legal planning reality in which the construction took place without a permit.
Concern exists over selective use of the Kaminitz Law, which would result in unequal, discriminatory, and harmful enforcement, on the basis of nationality. This reality already exists today, and more stringent enforcement through the law’s amendment will increase the inequality.