a Freedom of Information Request to expose Reports of the Cable Car was filed
A request under the Freedom of Information Law was filed to the District Court on Tuesday, January 29, 2019, after the Jerusalem Development Authority refused to provide information regarding the economic feasibility of the cable car project. The request was filed in August 2018 by Emek Shaveh to the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) and the Ministry of Tourism, requesting materials on the decision-making process and monetary documents associated with the project. The JDA’s response: There is an economic feasibility report that will disrupt the advancement of the project and is therefore classified:
The Authority has an economic feasibility report, which includes references to various aspects of the project, including the subject of alternatives. This is an internal document of the Authority, which includes economic and commercial information, created in order to formulate a policy and an outline for the advancement of the project, and whose disclosure may, in whole or in part, disrupt the progress and performance of the project.
This report was never presented to the National Infrastructure Committee, which approved the deposited plan in October 2018. In light of the JDA’s response, and considering the importance of exposing the facts to the public and the planning committees, we appealed to the District Court with a group of Jerusalem residents, in order to receive the information.
From the appeal:
We suspect that, in departure from good governance, in a negligent and possibly illegal fashion, the Ministry and the Minister of Tourism have decided to support the cable car project and allocate hundreds of millions of shekels of public funds for the project, based solely on a gut feeling and without gathering factual background material from the Ministry, and in the absence of any written documentation of the discussions and decisions of the Ministry and Minister of Tourism in the matter.
Particularly in light of the reason given by Respondent 3 for refusing to provide the Petitioners and the public with the Economic Feasibility Report, there is a real suspicion that the respondents are concealing “inconvenient” factual information that undermines the justification of the cable car project.
We fear that this is a populist project advanced by politicians to amass political capital, which ultimately will turn into a “white elephant,” the consequences and costs of maintenance of which the public will have to bear years after the politicians who approved and promoted are no longer in office.
The proposal of Responding Minister 1 to allocate 200 million NIS for the cable car project, which was approved by the government, must have a solid factual and professional foundation, and not just a political one.
On Friday the cable car project will be open for objections. Over the last few days, Emek Shaveh has gathered hundreds of signatures of people who want to join their voices to the organization’s objections.
Emek Shaveh’s Response: The fact that the developers of the cable car project are concealing such important information from the planning committees casts a dark shadow over the project. It is no secret that the project was presented in the National Infrastructure Committee, because it obviously would not have passed in the planning committees. Even in a governmental committee that is their own playing field, the project’s developers have to scheme in order to get it approved.
The cable car initiative is a destructive plan that clashes with the unique character of Jerusalem as an historic and holy city for three religions. Spurred by the political interest of strengthening the settler organization “Elad,” the Israeli government is willing to compromise the Old City walls, the skyline of the Historic Basin and its antiquities – and dares to call it tourism.
We, at Emek Shaveh, together with a coalition of organizations and people, will do everything we can to object to and stop this plan, which will harm World Heritage assets that were entrusted to the State of Israel.