Despite recognition, government hesitant to relocate to Jerusalem
Although US recently recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and government has decided to move all its facilities to city, ministries remain unprepared for transition; Jerusalem municipality petitions court, saying ministries indecisiveness illegal, situation impeding on capital's economy.
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira is penning a harsh report claiming that the government ministries are ignoring the Jerusalem Law and the government's decision regarding the transfer of government institutions to the city.
The law, more accurately known as Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, stipulates, among other things such as protection of holy places and freedom of worship, that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel" and is "the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court."
All government institutions were supposed to move to Jerusalem by 2015. A year earlier, the deadline was postponed to 2019, but it seems that, despite the US's unprecedented recent recognition of the city as Israel's capital, most government institutions are not preparing for the move.
Due to this, the Jerusalem Municipality petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Finance Ministry on the grounds that the government housing administration in the ministry refrains from fulfilling its duty by law and does not transfer its activities to Jerusalem.
The municipality claims that at least 163 units are still located outside the capital.
An examination conducted by the Jerusalem Municipality revealed that "no orderly transition plan has yet been prepared for the facilities, no mapping of the number of workers in each institution that will be transferred to Jerusalem and the required areas of land has been accounted for, no planning process has been prepared for the approval of government housing and the Budget Division, no detailed plan detailing existing and planned areas has been prepared, and no representatives of the ministries have been appointed to implement the government's decisions."
According to the data detailed in the petition, the damage caused to Jerusalem by the failure to implement the government's decision is estimated at a loss of more than NIS 2 billion in revenues over the next decade, and the loss of more than 10,000 jobs.
An examination conducted by the municipality shows that more than 100 government units did not request an exceptional permit in the matter, and some of them do not work in Jerusalem even though their requests for doing so were rejected.
The municipality also requested that the court orders the Finance Ministry to refrain from approving leases to its various institutions in other communities.
The Jerusalem Municipality, for its part, is prepared for the absorption of the institutions, and the city has many properties ready for immediate rent. In a call published by the Jerusalem Development Authority, proposals were received for the rental of properties in a total area of more than 200,000 square meters.
"Every unit that will move to Jerusalem will receive our full support," said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Finance Ministry officials said in response to the petition: "This is a political petition whose sole purpose is to attack the Finance Ministry and its head against the backdrop of the hostility that Barkat has toward Minister Kahlon.
"The Ministry implements the government's decision in its entirety. We propose to the municipality to point an accusing finger at those who are really responsible for implementing the decision—that is, the government and its leader."