The Holyland scandal, in which high officials are accused of taking huge bribes that enabled the massive building project in Jerusalem known as the Holyland complex, is having one positive outcome: strengthening the hands of organizations like SHATIL that have been fighting the government's bid to reform Israel's planning and construction law.
In a demonstration on April 28 demanding a freeze to the proposed planning reform law and the establishment of a state investigative committee into the Holyland affair, hundreds of people, including many new to the campaign, protested in Jerusalem's Zion Square. Among the new participants were representatives of the young guards of virtually every political party from the National Union on the right to Hadash on the left.
"The reform would allow hundreds more Holylands throughout Israel and we will pay the price in open areas, housing for the young, and rational construction," said Avi Dabush, coordinator of the Responsible Planning Forum. "The reform takes the public out of the decision making process and reduces accountability and transparency."
In an analysis of the Holyland scandal in the Jerusalem Post, Ron Friedman wrote, "The affair…highlight(s) precisely what the reform's opponents…have been warning of…a call to increase the powers of local officials and reducing oversight…may lead to even more corruption."
The demonstration followed another protest on Israel's Independence Day in front of the Holyland complex. Both protests gained wide media coverage.
The SHATIL-coordinated Responsible Planning Forum, which organized the demonstrations and runs the anti-planning reform campaign, includes 30 environmental and social organizations, including many which NIF supports with direct grants and through its participation in the Green Environment Fund such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Israeli students' movement Green Course, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and others.