Issue 21: Entry into Israel Law and Family Reunification
Please indicate whether the State party is planning to revoke the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision) 5763-2003 and take alternative measures that would guarantee and facilitate family reunification for all citizens and permanent residents. In addition, please provide information on the number of requests for entry into Israel received on a yearly basis since 2003, and specify the number of those that have been denied entry and the reasons why.
The law, while ostensibly enacted for security purposes, disproportionately harms the right to family life solely on the basis of nationality and ethnic origin. The law additionally undermines the principle of equality as it prevents Arab citizens and residents whose partners reside in Arab states or the Occupied Territories from realizing their right to a family life. In May 2006, the High Court of Justice rejected petitions against this law,52 asserting in a majority ruling that these orders are temporary despite the harm they cause. Subsequent petitions against extending the validity of this law are pending.53
Since May 2002, Israel has prevented – first by government decision and since 2003 by law – legalization of the status of Palestinians in Israel, even if they are spouses or children of Israeli citizens and residents. Although the avowed purpose of the law is security, decision makers have clarified more than once that the intent is demographic – to prevent Palestinians from having legal standing in Israel. Although the law permits spouses and children above a certain age to hold a temporary residence permit without social rights, it does not allow legalization of their status on a permanent basis. And since 2007, Israel has placed an absolute prohibition on legalizing the status of family members who are citizens of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, or Iraq and – from 2008 – also Gaza Strip residents.
Article 11 - The right to an adequate standard of living
Issue 22: Poverty and the Governmental Policy toward it
Please provide up-to-date information on the number of households that live below the national poverty line, in the State party, including in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, disaggregated by population group. Please also provide detailed information on public expenditure to fight poverty in particular for the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups in society, and indicate its effect on reducing the extent and depth of poverty.
In 2009, the poverty line was NIS 2,270 for an individual living alone and NIS 3,630 for a couple. The State's 2009 Report optimistically predicts a decline in poverty rates, noting the slight decline in the incidence of poor families in Israel in both 2006 and 2007, as well as a reduced poverty rate among individuals and children. However, in 2009, the national poverty rate came out to 20.5% - three full percentage points higher than where it was ten years ago, and higher than the previous year. In 2009, there were a total of 435,100 poor families in Israel, including 1,775,800 individuals among whom 850,300 children. The incidence of poverty among children likewise increased – by 2.3 percentage points, to 36.3%.54
The severity (that is a combination of effects of the incidence of poverty and the depth of poverty, with greater weight attributed to poorer people) and depth (that is, the average distance of poor people’s income from the poverty line) of poverty both increased sharply – the former rising by 12.2% in 2009 (twice as fast as its average growth rate in the previous decade) and the latter from 34.2% in 2008 to 35.5% in 2009. The economic crisis is an important factor in the worsening situation of poverty in Israel, and accordingly families participating in the labor market (and mainly those already near the poverty line) were more highly impacted.
Nevertheless, these figures stand in stark contrast to the rest of the member countries of the OECD. A 2011 OECD report reveals that Israel's poverty rate is more than twice as high as the rest of the OECD countries, that its income gap between the ninth and lowest decile one and a half times as high, and that the disparity between the overall standard of living and that of the poorest decile is three times as high as the OECD average ratio.55
It is furthermore instructive to look at poverty rates by age, gender, and region. In 2009, the poverty rate among the elderly was lowered by 9,300 individuals. However, such figures hide the worsening circumstances of those remaining in poverty, with the depth of poverty among the elderly increasing from 23.0% in 2008 to 24.8% in 2009, and its severity likewise increasing. The incidence of poverty among children throughout Israel has also risen significantly, and families with 1-3 children were particularly affected, with a poverty rate increasing from 17.8% in 2008 to 20.2% in 2009. The rate and severity of poverty also increased among individuals having completed 9-12 years of education. There is a higher poverty rate among Israeli women than men (in 2009, 20% of women were poor in contrast to18.8% of men). Both the depth and rate of poverty decreased for immigrants. Finally, poverty rates fluctuate considerably by region. In the Central district, poverty rate increased from 11.3 % to 13%, while in the southern district the rate was fixed at 23.6%. Poverty rates decreased in the Jerusalem district from 23.7% to 22.7%. Among Arab residents of the Jerusalem District, 75.3% are poor, a statistic which rises to 83.1% when considering only Arab children.57
According to the Israeli National Insurance Institute, contributing to this increasing rate of poverty is a lack of investment in the Arab sector, very low participation of ultra-Orthodox men and Arab women in the labor force, the creation of many jobs that are only part-time, and the growing prevalence of perm-temp employment agencies. Indeed, the Arab and ultra-Orthodox community have extremely high poverty rates. The highest rate of poverty is found within the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, 56.9% of the families, where there is an extremely low rate of participation of men in the labor force, community families instead subsisting largely on state subsidies. The poverty rate significantly increased in the Arab sector, from 41.2% in 2001 to 53.5% in 2009. Of the 15,000 families newly designated as living under the poverty line, 14,300 of those were Arabs.56
Public Expenditure and Diminishing Poverty
A single, clear line connects all the different protests relating to social rights: the policy of budget cuts and extreme privatization that has been implemented for three decades, and particularly over the past decade. This policy has not been accompanied by the establishment of any alternatives, and Israeli citizens have been left without any genuine possibility to cope with the grave damage to their social human rights. This policy has led to the dwindling of social services, intensified social gaps, and brought poverty levels to an unprecedented high in Israel.
The State of Israel does not have a comprehensive policy for addressing the acute problem of poverty, and no government plan has been determined for reducing poverty levels in recent years. In fact, the opposite is the case. Over the past three decades, Israeli governments have conducted an economic policy that advocates the cutting and privatization of social services, which are intended to provide a firm foundation for assisting weakened populations and to help them in improving their situation. Israeli governments have dramatically reduced their involvement in the fields of housing, health, education, welfare, and employment, and have deliberately shifted the center of gravity to the private market. The governments have argued that they should not intervene in market forces, which will act in the best manner to meet public and economic interests.
The situation deteriorated to a full-scale social crisis, which erupted in the summer of 2011 in a mass movement that took to the streets, holding demonstrations on an unprecedented scale against the government’s social and economic policies. Tent cities were established in dozens of cities to protest against the lack of social justice in all fields, from housing to the cost of living and from health to education.
ACRI has warned for years that the Israeli government has abandoned its responsibility for the welfare of Israeli residents. The complaints and material accumulated in our offices reflect the danger of social explosion. The current policy has caused grave social damage that is masked by the nation’s strong economy. As stated above, today one in four residents of Israel lives below the poverty line, as does one in every three children. Income gaps are wider than ever before. This reality violates the common social goals of Israeli citizens and threatens Israeli democracy.
Further to the details above regarding cuts in transfer payments, it is important to distinguish between the different types of transfer payments, as their impacts vary on the incidence of poverty. Old-age pension benefits are by far the most effective, extricating 55% in 2009 from economic poverty. In that year, unemployment benefits lowered by 47% the incidence of poverty, a significant improvement from 2008. However, income support payments helped only 17% of recipients move out of poverty, and very low child allowance resulted in helping only 6% of recipients.59
In recent years, welfare policy in Israel has focused on creating incentives to participate in the workforce (mainly by significant cuts in social benefits). However, participation in the workforce does not necessarily free Israelis from poverty: In Israel, employment is no longer a guarantee against poverty. In 2009, the incidence of poverty increased among working families from 12.2% in 2008 to 13.4%. At the same time, working families made up 49% of the entire poor population, a significant increase from 46.3 % the previous year. In 2009, transfer payments, including direct taxes, removed 47% of recipients and 13.4% of children from poverty. As it stands, this is one-half of the effect these had in 2002 (prior to cuts in benefits), as well as much lower than the average impact transfer payments have for the remainder of the OECD member states.58
While the State's Reports submits that the April 2007 raise of the minimum wage contributed significantly to a reduction in poverty of that year, later statistics nuance this conclusion. On the effectiveness of the minimum wage, the National Insurance Institute reports that the minimum wage (along with child allowance) is not enough to extricate a single mother with two children, a couple with one breadwinner, or a couple with more than three children and 1.5 full time positions, from poverty.60
Instead of adopting policy such as that outlined above, Israel introduced a pilot From Welfare to Work program (Official name: Lights to Employment Program), better known as the “Wisconsin Plan”. The plan was implemented over a five-year period ending in April 2010. However, this plan did not offer any genuine solutions in this field. On the contrary: the supplementary income recipients referred to the plan were almost all poor and belonged to the weakest population groups in Israel – immigrants, minorities, residents of the peripheral areas, people with disabilities, the elderly, and so forth. In comparison to similar programs in other countries, the Israeli plan was far-reaching in the extent of privatization. Contractors enjoyed the authority to deny benefits to participants and received economic incentives for doing so.63
Nevertheless, overall the impact of transfer payments on diminishing poverty increased in 2009 from 20.2% to 23.3%.61 These public expenditures do not help Israeli society uniformly. In fact, the impact such policy measures have on reducing poverty declined among the Arab population from 13.5% in 2008 to 11.4% in 2009 (this number comes to 47% among Jews).62 The population's characteristics are explanatory factors: it is a very young population, and many families have large numbers of children.
In light of these statistics, the policy to encourage participation in the workforce in Israel should be changed. Rather than directing benefit recipients to any job, their employment horizons should be extended and nurtured. Yet the government has failed to increase investments in the workforce or to implement proactive policy designed to enhance the job market and increase the number of decent positions available in Israel.
The Wisconsin Plan
Participants in the plan reported humiliation, harassment, threats and intimidation, illustrating the range of problems created by privatization. Almost 29% of supplementary income claimants in the areas where the plan was implemented dropped out from the scheme. Moreover, no competition was created between the private companies in Israel, which operate as monopolies, and accordingly were also ineffective in cost-benefit terms.64 In the final analysis, even sympathetic studies examining the plan showed that it failed to improve the economic condition of most of the participants.65 For example, only 28% of those referred to the plan were working at the time of its closure. These failings led to the decision by the Knesset not to extend the plan.66
As in the case of a proposed bill that sought to extend the plan throughout Israel in April 2011, which was rejected by the Knesset Labor Affairs Committee, the proposed bill grants sweeping powers and governmental authority to clerks in private corporations to refer participants to work, determine an individual program occupying some 30-35 hours a week, demand medical and other information, and deny supplementary income to participants. The authority to deny income support payments in the proposed bill includes the involvement of public officials only in a minority of instances. Even in these cases, it is obvious that the decision will be made on the basis of the recommendation of the corporate clerks, since they alone determine the personal plan and supervise its implementation, rather than by the public officials.
Despite these findings, the government has continued to promote the plan without making any substantive changes. The proposed bill “Integration of Benefit Recipients in Work (Temporary Provision) 5771-2010”, which was presented for discussion by the Knesset on August 3, 2011, still includes the profound privatization of the state’s authority to assist recipients of supplementary income – a process that directly influences the possibility for the weakest members of society to be integrated in the workforce. Moreover, the authority to determine eligibility for income support payments – the last safety net for families that have no other income – is also privatized.
As was the case in the rejected proposed bill, the current proposal also establishes an arbitrary scope of 30-35 hours a week for the program, even if there is no need for these hours for the purpose of integration in work or vocational training. In most cases, this allocation of hours artificially expands the number of hours of vocational training, and the purpose becomes to “trap” the participants rather than to advance them. For example, there is no reason why a person requiring vocational training of 25 hours a week should be required to waste more of their time, and more public funds, simply in order to fill in the missing portion of the quota.
As in the rejected proposed law, the current proposal does not recognize the right to services supporting work, and merely provides for the vague possibility that the private company may offer such services. Services supporting work, which include such programs as vocational training, subsidies for travel expenses, and child care expenses, are intended to reduce the obstacles preventing participation in the workforce. Such services are essential in order to realize the objective of the law. Until this right enjoys appropriate recognition in law, the plan will not be able to offer a real alternative for work in a manner that permits a dignified existence. Instead, it serves only to replace the benefit with low-paid work, and most of the income received is used to cover the expenses created by joining the workforce.
In light of all these failings the Knesset has to date refused to approve the new proposed bill.
The Employment Service
Over recent decades, the budget of the Employment Service has been slashed and its authorities reduced. In 1992, for example, the requirement for employers and employees to use the Employment Service was abolished, and private placement companies were also allowed to operate.67 In 2004, against the backdrop of the cuts in the Employment Service’s budget and authorities, the Wisconsin Plan was launched, with the intention of drawing benefit recipients into the workforce, and funding for the Employment Service was cut to a bare minimum.
The vast majority of government resources were directed at the Wisconsin Plan rather than the Employment Service. The average budget per jobseeker in the Wisconsin Plan was NIS 9038, compared to only NIS 236 in the Employment Service. The average budgetary ratio between the Wisconsin Plan and the Employment Service was 31:1 in “favor” of the Wisconsin Plan. An official in the Employment Service processes 420 jobseekers, compared to 50 jobseekers per official in the Wisconsin Plan.
In recent years, vocational training programs have been slashed and government expenditure on vocational training has dropped and is now very low compared to the OECD average.71 Despite this, every year the government seeks to cause further damage to the Vocational Training Division, encouraging the trend toward meager training that cannot rescue people from poverty. In 2009, the budget of the Employment Service for vocational training vouchers was NIS 9,985,000, while the budget for jobseekers was NIS 2,000,000. In 2010, not a single shekel was allocated for these two items.
Although the Knesset closed down the Wisconsin Plan in 2010, the plan budgets were not transferred to the Employment Service. In 2009-2010, drastic budget cuts were imposed on the Service, and it did not receive any budgets for placement-supporting tools. The budget was cut again this year, this time by NIS 50 million,68 and again no budget was provided for placement-supporting tools. The Psychological Counseling Service for jobseekers was shut down. Support for travel expenses and incentives for those remaining in work placements were ended. The entire budget for workshops for jobseekers and vocational training vouchers was cancelled. The cuts mean that the Employment Service has no real possibility to perform its function.69
The budget of the Employment Service in Israel is very low in OECD standards – 0.02% of the GDP, compared to an average of 0.4% in the OECD countries (5% of the average). The rate of jobseekers per placement officers in Israel (1:346 in 2008) is much higher than in most OECD countries (1:29 in Finland, 1:39 in Germany and 1:37 in Ireland). Only one-fifth of the 520 employees of the Employment Service who are placement officers have undergone training as employment consultants.70
Anti-Social Governmental Policy
Welfare services have been largely privatized and the huge difference in services in the different cities and municipalities can easily be detected. Furthermore, water utilities have been privatized. Since 2010 water prices have gone up about 40-50% per household due to the privatization of water utilities and the lack of state support.
Other social services, which have been neglected by the state in the past years, have a great impact on poverty as well.72 The fact that no new affordable housing units were built, but only designated big flats in rich areas, further alienates poor people and creates homogenous living areas. The amount of rent assistance was cut in half in 2003 and further decreased 30% since then. This leaves many poor people in worse situation.
The budget for public health services has declined 40% since the late 90ies. There has been a steady increase in private expenditure and private health care due to the cuts in financing the health care system. The middle class has been forced to pay a lot of privatized health services, while the poor population cannot afford those expenditures and chooses to forgo important medical treatment. One third of Israel’s population forgoes dental care and over 50% of elderly people miss all their teeth.
The small budget for public education is evident when looking at teachers’ salaries and the bellow average student achievements in the international PISA test. Private expenditure on education is already at 25%. The Israeli education system fails to unite poor and rich population but rather creates two different education systems within the public education system. As a result, poor students do not enjoy equal opportunities and this further reinforces the existing socio-economic stratification.
The cuts of budgets and the privatization of state social responsibilities are problematic, as private companies don’t have social welfare as their goals, but care about profits. In that way, the state avoids the responsibility of providing structures for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and deteriorates growing number of residents to lower economic situation that ends up too many times under the poverty line.
Issue 23: The Housing Crisis and the Lack of Affordable Housing
Please provide Information on measures taken to ensure affordable housing, including through the increase in public housing units, and to address the lack of regulation of the private rental market [ … ]
Absence of a Constitutional Right to Housing
Though Israel is a signatory to the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, it has never taken the step of anchoring the right to adequate housing in its set of Basic Laws. Israel’s Supreme Court has interpreted the right to human dignity – enshrined in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty – to include the protection of having a roof over one’s head. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to human dignity protects only the minimal conditions necessary for existence and in no way imposes an obligation on the state to ensure adequate housing, with all the considerations that that entails.73 In order to guarantee the right to affordable housing, Israel must promote the passage of the Basic Law: Social Rights or to enshrine the right to adequate housing in constitutional legislation.
Lack of housing policy
Israel has no clear, published housing policy, and the government largely prefers to take a stance of ambiguity in all areas touching upon the housing issue. For example, regarding housing assistance for disadvantaged populations, all policy making has been set through internal regulations at the Ministry of Housing, rather than through legislation. Among these regulations, there are fixed rules regarding the eligibility for public housing assistance, the eligibility for rent assistance allocations, and the conditions. These rules directly affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. The state is in need of a clear and transparent housing policy that is anchored in law and subject to public scrutiny, in order to ensure an effective right to housing to its people.
Over the last two decades, very few apartments have been added to the public housing system, despite the sale of more than 26,000 such apartments to their residents between 1999 and 2008. Over 2 billion shekels have accumulated in a special fund generated from the sale of these apartments. In the Public Housing Law (Buying rights) (1998), this fund was earmarked for renewing the reservoir of available apartments in the social housing system, but the law was repealed and none of it has been utilized for this purpose. Today, there are less than 66,000 social housing apartments, and the waiting list for such apartments is typically several years long and practically an insurmountable obstacle for most families. Additionally eligibility conditions have become more stringent in light of the severe shortage of public housing. Only those families with 3 or more dependent children or with wheelchair-bound disabled people meet the eligibility criteria. Often many of those eligible are nevertheless directed toward renting on the private market, though, as noted hereinafter, the rental assistance allocations they receive are not tailored to the rental prices in each region, and the private rental market remains unregulated and unsupervised. The state has failed to build new social housing. Moreover, it has failed to present alternatives to reducing the stock of public housing units. It must accept its responsibility to provide the necessary facilities, especially in light of the growing population of eligible residents.
Lack of regulation of the private rental market
Israeli law does not provide minimal protection to tenants, although private rental apartments are providing a roof to 25% of the households in the country. Rental contracts are freely negotiated without any obligating regulations, and tenants' right to legal security of tenure is not guaranteed. In many cases contracts include draconian conditions and landlords maintain a right to evacuate the tenant for any reason with a very short notice. Renters that belong to minority groups are often exposed to discrimination when looking for an apartment to rent. In addition, there is no insurance protecting the tenants from sharp and frequent rent increases. Israel must provide legal security of tenure to tenants, and ensure their ability to live with dignity. Regulation must balance between the rights of landlords and tenants.
Drying the Public Housing system out
Israel must protect the right to rental allowances in a law, and budget it according to needs. The allowances must be correlated to real rental prices in different areas of the country to avoid marginalization of eligible families. Israel must furthermore extend the eligibility criteria, especially to include singles and people wishing to rent in small towns or villages to the program of rental allowance.
Unsatisfying Rental Allowances
The right to rental allowances is not protected by law but by an internal decision of the housing ministry. Currently 137,000 households are entitled to rental allowances. Over the last decade Israel has sharply cut the budget for this goal. In 2002 the government cut the allowances by half. Since then the budget was not updated and rental prices went up. The result was an additional erosion of up to 30%. The average rental allowances are around 700 NIS and the maximum is 1,250 NIS (with some exceptions). The cuts have reduced the number of households entitled to rental allowances by 30% between 2001 and 2009. Singles under the age of 55, for example, are not entitled to assistance.
Israel prefers rental allowances to public housing, this entails that the household gets to freely choose its place of residency. However, as allowances are fixed and are not based on real rental prices in different areas, many families are marginalized, and can find a place to live only in poor or peripheral areas. In addition, since the rental market is not regulated at all, many families face problems dealing with landlords or sharp rent increases, which force them to move frequently. Furthermore, rental allowances can only be used for renting in cities or towns with rental market of bigger than 5%. This rule affects mainly Arab families wishing to rent in small towns and villages. Due to the lack of developed rental markets in small towns and villages of the Arab population in Israel, they are deprived of rental assistance.
The dissatisfactory treatment of homeless people
Israeli law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination in the private housing market, and the state does not actively combat the phenomenon of discrimination in the rental or sale of apartments and in admission to certain residential complexes. Following the Ka’adan petition to the Supreme Court, it is now forbidden to employ discrimination on public land marketed by the state. Nevertheless, the state protects certain practices that, in effect, enable discrimination. For example, in communal villages, the state allows admissions committees to accept or reject residency candidates on the basis of vague parameters such as “social suitability”, which constitute a basis for discrimination. A number of such villages have amended their charter statements to include that the community has an identity consistent with Jewish Zionist values – a tool used to exclude Arab candidates.
Israel’s existing policy toward the homeless focuses exclusively on “street dwellers” who live out in the open, and who generally exhibit a characteristic range of personality disorders.74 However, there is no policy regarding the homeless who live in temporarily constructed or dilapidated housing – people who lived “normal” lives before and lost the roof over their heads – other than general aid which doesn’t adequately address their dire need. Furthermore, very few specific or designated policies exist regarding prevention and prior intervention to homelessness. Most available aid is given only after the person has been turned out onto the streets. The number of homeless shelters is small, there are no appropriate shelters for families with children, and there is no enforcement of existing regulations regarding the homeless. The state must adopt a broader definition of homelessness that reflects the reality of today. Furthermore, it must provide appropriate shelter with respect to the different needs of the homeless people, as well as adopt policies that are concerned with preventing homelessness or prior intervention in cases of homelessness.
Discrimination is not combated
Recently the Knesset passed the Acceptance to Communities Law, which legalizes this discriminatory practice for communal villages. Although article 6c(3) of the law forbids the rejection of candidates on the basis of nationality, race, religion, sex or disability, the law effectively enables those committees to reject anyone they don't see fit due to the vague criteria applied. ACRI fought against this law together with the Abraham Fund Initiatives in the High Court Justice of Israel, as this bill allows for a legal discrimination of minority groups based on the vague parameters of 'social suitability'. The law violates the constitutional rights of different minority groups; first and foremost the Arab population but it also includes people of Mizrahi origin, the elderly, immigrants, people with lesser economic means, same-sex partner families, single-parent families, people with mental disabilities, people with specific political opinions, and/or people with different standards of religiosity. In June 2011 the Court issued an Order Nisi, and gave the Knesset 60 days to explain why this law is not unconstitutional, before it passes its final decision on the issue. The state response was not submitted yet.
Discrimination in housing issues can also be seen in the cities. There is no law that forbids private landlords to discriminate against buyers or renters. Further, there is vagueness whether the laws prohibit discrimination by housing corporations. The Tel Aviv District Court has ruled in ACRI's petition that a developer who won a tender for a residency project, built on state land in the heart of a mostly-Arab neighborhood in Jaffa, is allowed to market and sell apartments of that project exclusively to religious Jews. Though the Justice Ministry established that it is forbidden for developers to discriminate in this way, it nevertheless defended the tender in court. The Appeal on this ruling was rejected by the Supreme Court, arguing that it was too late to cancel the tender. The Court, however, added that the decision of the Israel Land Authority to add a section to its tenders, which enforces developers to sell apartments without discrimination, is an adequate measure.
The state must ensure that all elements of direct and indirect discrimination with relation to the admission to communal villages and residential compounds are eliminated.
Bypassing planning procedures
Lack of inclusionary housing policy
In recent years, a growing number of Israeli citizens have found it increasingly harder to secure affordable housing for themselves in the main cities or in some specific neighborhoods in the cities. The lack of affordable housing marginalizes medium and low income families and causes concentration of poverty in the cities. The government has failed to take adequate measures to ensure affordable housing for the general population, and to actively work to encourage housing for mixed social strata, aimed at reducing social gaps and preventing the concentration of poverty. By the end of 2009, the Knesset amended legislation obligating the state to allocate land for affordable housing, legislation which, to date, has not been implemented.
A number of local municipalities have started to promote affordable housing initiatives, though not under the regulation of law. Most of these have been only partially implemented, and only with the agreement of the developer. Those plans were stopped by the ministry of justice that claimed that localities have no authority to intervene in prices of new apartments according to planning laws. Only recently, the state announced that a law for affordable housing will be presented by the government over the coming parliamentary session. The state must promote inclusionary housing policy to ensure that every neighborhood offers adequate housing to households with different incomes and it must further grant local municipalities the authority and tools to advance affordable housing. Israel must use public land to ensure that adequate percentages of the new apartments are affordable to medium and low income households.75
The Israel Report of 2011 refers to the Planning and Construction Procedures for the Acceleration of Construction for Housing Purposes Law 5771-2011 that was approved by the Knesset on 3 August 2011. The purpose of this law is to set temporary arrangements and additionally the establishment of a special planning institution, National Housing Committees.76 ACRI warns that none of these National Committees are committed to or promoting social interests or equality. The law bypasses the actual building law and gives additional authority to the committee without being concerned with democratic procedures. It for example does not provide a platform for public discussions with the building hierarchy and completely excludes public participation. The law addresses the issue of affordable housing but it will still be necessary to enact an actual set of rules to guarantee an effective regime of affordable housing.
Issue 25: Building and Planning Policies in East Jerusalem
Please indicate what measures the State party is planning to take to review its housing policy and the issuance of construction permits in East Jerusalem, in order to prevent demolitions and ensure the legality of construction in those areas?
The State's Report critically fails to provide any context for the frequency of illegal construction in Arab East Jerusalem. Indeed, the Report only notes the number of Arab illegal constructions to 'explain' the disproportionate number of home demolitions being carried out in East Jerusalem. Nowhere is there an attempt to explain the incidence of illegal buildings itself, and such an omission reflects the delegitimization, as well as neglect of the basic needs of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem.77
Indeed, since its annexation to Israel in 1967, the Arab population of East Jerusalem has increased by more than 450%, from 66,000 residents in 1967 to 303,429 residents at the end of 2009 (according to the Municipality of Jerusalem’s population registry). This increase obligates Israeli authorities to continue developing East Jerusalem in order to ensure the right of all citizens to decent housing. However, for many years urban planning in Arab East Jerusalem was not a significant priority for State and municipal authorities, and today there exists almost no legal avenue for issuing building permits for new structures for the Arab population. The outline plans that began to be prepared for Palestinian neighborhoods starting in the 1980s saw the continuation of discriminatory building policies, with the plans designating 40% of the area as "open landscape areas", on which construction is forbidden. In the local plans that were approved prior to the end of 1999, only 11% of the land in East Jerusalem (excluding 24,000 dunams of land, expropriated by the Israeli government) was available for construction for the Palestinian population.
Furthermore, significant bureaucratic obstacles for construction exist for the residents of East Jerusalem. Municipal authorities impose long and tedious procedures, many of which involve high costs, on permit seekers. Some limitations apply specifically to Palestinian residents; others, though identical to those required in West Jerusalem, are often beyond the financial reach of most East Jerusalem residents. In twenty percent of the residential-zoned area of East Jerusalem, construction is delayed by “re-plotting,” a process designed to insure that future buildings correspond with true ownerships and match development plans, as well as provide a fair allocation of lands for public use. For nearly twenty years little progress has been made, partly due to the large numbers of East Jerusalem landowners and the difficulty of producing land title documents. Until approval is granted, the land cannot be sold, nor can construction take place. As is the case with the demarcation plans existing in the West Bank, construction is allowed primarily in built-up areas, which leads to extreme population density. Data from the Jerusalem Institute is showing that the average population density in East Jerusalem in 2009 was 1.9 persons per room, nearly twice that of West Jerusalem.
In order to cope with the needs arising from the natural increase in population, residents of East Jerusalem are often forced to build without permits. It is estimated that of the 19,900 units built in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem between 1967 and 2001, only 3,100 building permits were issued. In contrast, Israel has since 1967 built 50,197 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods built in East Jerusalem on lands confiscated from Palestinians. When such structures are eventually built, the municipality imposes a range of penalties on the owners ranging from fines to demolition orders. Because of the slow pace of the city’s bureaucracy, the end result is often the demolition of a structure which has stood and been occupied for many years.
No implementation of recent policy recommendations
A direct consequence of discrimination in the field of planning between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods is the lack of fresh water supply. Section 157 of the Planning and Building Law (1965) prohibits the connection of water mains, electrical grids, and telephone networks to buildings without permits. Since many buildings in East Jerusalem are built without permits, they remain without access to these basic services, and tens of thousands of East Jerusalem residents suffer from the lack of a regular water supply. Based on data from the Water Company of Jerusalem, about half the population is not officially connected to the water system. They are left with no choice but to rig makeshift connections to water mains or to homes that are legally connected to the water network, or to make do with stored containers of fresh water. Furthermore, the work to lay down water mains or to replace and upgrade existing mains is very slow in East Jerusalem.
A 2010 State Comptroller's report recommended that alternative measures be considered, aside from home demolitions, which would encourage lawful and deter illegal construction. Inter alia, the report recommended that master plans include the participation of the public, in a manner that meets the needs of the public. In response to the report, the Mayor of Jerusalem sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, dated October 13, 2010, outlining his strategy for dealing with illegal construction in East Jerusalem, including three main principles: the preparation of new updated outline plans for various neighborhoods; the adoption of a policy to delay further house demolitions in areas undergoing new planning arrangements; and after the approval of said new outline plans, an extensive program to arrange legal status for those buildings already existing within the confines of those plans. However, since publication of this letter, not one outline plan has been approved for a single neighborhood. Moreover, of those outline plans already in various stages of preparation, none have been prepared with public participation and none have taken into account either the immediate or long-term needs of the public they are supposed to serve.
Consequence of the illegal constructions: No access to water