Construction in periphery
Photo: AFP

What about equality?

Op-ed: De facto settlement freeze, like other discriminatory acts, hinders social justice

After the shock of the battles involving the haredim and their opposition to the national-religious school in Beit Shemesh, we must try to understand - what happened there?


Let's start from the bottom line. A decision was made to to make the city haredi, yet they forgot to inform residents of this fact!


Beit Shemesh, an established city, underwent a shake-up over the last 20 years. New neighborhoods were established and tens of thousands of new residents, mainly haredim, moved in. One morning the longtime residents woke up to discover that their new guests wanted to be master of the house.


It is legitimate that haredim live in Beit Shemesh. It is not legitimate that there is a covert policy, carried out by recent housing ministers, to de facto change Beit Shemesh, over the heads of residents, into an ultra-Orthodox city. It is not legitimate to have a land-marketing policy for the haredim exclusively. It is not legitimate to change the character of a city based on ideological or political interests.


There is nothing wrong with taking one’s voters into consideration. But there is a problem when government ministers do not formulate a national policy, instead only taking into account the interests of the haredim. These same ministers also need to relate to young couples, single parent families, settlers and students by taking into consideration their lifestyles, needs, as well as the individual cultural and social life of these groups.


Recently, I attended a meeting at the Center for Local Government with Housing Minister Ariel Atias, his ministry's director general and dozens of mayors. All the mayors who spoke raised their concerns and areas of distress. The picture that emerged was that there is a wide gap between the needs of the various communities and the products being supplied by the Ministry of Housing.


It was only the last speaker, Beit Shemesh Mayor Moshe Abutbul, who was full of praise for the activity of the housing minister and his staff. The other mayors, in their frustration, broke out laughing and asked Abutbul "Does one have to join Shas in order to be eligible for the benefits that you receive?"


What has been going on in Beit Shemesh infuriates me because as the mayor of Efrat, I am unable (just like my predecessors) to provide my residents with what they have a right to receive as citizens - the ability to develop and grow.


The assumption that you can freeze the lives of the settlers has become acceptable. Government policy that refuses to market even one residential unit in a community such as Efrat, located in Gush Etzion - the very heart of the national consensus - is outrageous.


The fact that it is being done even though the government claims that there is no freeze in place is a sham. The fact that it is being done in spite of promises on the eve of the elections is tantamount to political fraud.


And it is not only about Efrat. All policy that is decided on the basis of politics and carried out on the backs of the residents is unacceptable. To discriminate against one sector over another, to give tax breaks because of one's place of residence, to give benefits to those who decide to continue living where they grew up, to launder thousands of illegal acres for the Bedouin, to increase egg quotas or water quotas for the region where the agriculture minister lives or to earmark funds for culture under the guise of affirmative action, are usually done out of political considerations and not based on a social strategy.


Anyone living in Tel Aviv, Efrat, Beit Shemesh or Sderot must believe that the heads of the state act in an equitable manner. It is legitimate for the government to aim to strengthen the periphery, grant tax breaks to encourage Israelis to move to these regions, and to invest resources in encouraging artists and creativity – however, such policy must be managed professionally and not by stealing, deception or shady political deals.


After all, social justice begins with public integrity and full transparency.


Attorney Oded Revivi is Mayor of Efrat



פרסום ראשון: 09.26.11, 23:41
 new comment
This will delete your current comment