Ministerial Power Struggle Might Collapse Antiquities Authority

The Education Ministry is holding back its NIS 8 million share of agency's budget; 200 employees face dismissal.

About half of the Israel Antiquities Authority's permanent workers are in danger of losing their jobs due to power struggles between Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Culture Minister Ophir Pines-Paz.

Following a government decision from a month ago transferring the responsibility over the IAA from the Education Ministry to the Science, Culture and Sports Ministry, the Education Ministry has been withholding eight million shekels from the IAA, its share of the agency's budget for 2006.

IAA sources said it is "a show of power by the education minister," which might bring to the collapse of the agency.

The IAA employs 400 workers, half of them in permanent positions. Its annual budget totals NIS 42 million. An additional eight million shekels are budgeted by the Education Ministry and three million shekels are budgeted by the Finance Ministry on top of the annual budget.

IAA officials told Haaretz Wednesday that unless a solution is found within two weeks, about half of the authority's 200 permanent workers would lose their jobs. The IAA is also considering closing down entire departments, such as the Robbery Prevention Unit. The budget problem is also expected to affect other IAA employees.

The Education Ministry's decision was followed by an announcement made by the Finance Ministry, not to transfer its share of the IAA budget.

With a two million shekels budget cut, the IAA is NIS 13 million short for the year.

IAA Director Shuka Dorfman asked to meet with Minister Tamir and Education Ministry director general Shmuel Aboav, but was turned down.

The Ministry's Deputy Director General Adi Hershkowitz told IAA officials "this is not a financial issue."

Aboav said the Education Ministry has fulfilled of its all commitments to the IAA, and any complaints regarding the agency should be directed to the Culture Ministry.