The Citizens for Good Governance and Social Justice (Ometz) group has asked the State Comptroller's Office to investigate a government program that would "seize" agricultural lands belonging to Moshav Beit Hanina to build housing units for the Arab village of Jisr az-Zarqa.
In its letter, Ometz wrote that the group had "examined the seizure of Beit Hanina's agricultural lands for the benefit of Jisr az-Zarqa."
"We have information that questions the Shas party's integrity," Ometz said. "It became clear to us that although it had been agreed in discussions with then-Interior Minister Eli Yishai that lands would not be transferred [from the moshav] until all building options inside the village were exhausted, the process continued. Within this context, Yishai visited the village on the eve of the last elections, and his party received dozens of votes from residents, perhaps because they were given a contradictory promise."
Moshav Beit Hanina and other local towns in the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council -- on the coastal plain about halfway between Netanya and Haifa -- vehemently oppose the proposal, which would set aside lands between Jisr az-Zarqa and Kibbutz Maagan Michael, east of Highway 2, for housing. The principal opponents to the proposal are communities in the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
Officials in the Transportation Ministry have reservations over the program, and the ministry has proposed alternative plans that would expand Highway 2 and raise the freeway at Jisr az-Zarqa. Highway 2, also known as the Coastal Highway, stretches from Tel Aviv to Haifa and is one of the busiest highways in Israel. Members of the Haifa Zoning Committee stressed that widening Highway 2 would require the demolition of both a bridge and an interchange that were only constructed in recent years.
Still, a local official said it was unlikely that any of these plans would be executed soon. The modification to Highway 2 was not budgeted by any of the relevant local authorities, a member of the Haifa planning committee told Israel Hayom, adding that there was little proof the plan would be carried out within the next couple of years. Personnel changes at the Interior Ministry, cuts to the Transportation Ministry's budget and public opposition would all help to stymie the proposal, he said.
"It's hard to believe anyone is going to execute this plan to redirect Route 2 eastward because the project is grandiose, it will cost hundreds of million [of shekels] if it ever comes to fruition," said a senior members of the Haifa district committee for planning. "The program has no environmental or economic logic."
"Following the government's decision in 2007, the Knesset committee for national infrastructure has deliberated the bill that would see the modification of Highway 2 between the Havatzelet and Zichron Yaakov interchanges," the Transportation Ministry said. "The committee is keeping in mind the public's best interest."