MKs Approve $3.3 Million Approved for West Bank Visitors' Center

Uproar as Knesset Finance Committee approves funds; Attorney General orders revote, since he did not approve the transfer.

Emil Salman

An argument broke out Sunday in the Knesset Finance Committee during a discussion of a request from the Finance Ministry to transfer 12.8 million shekels ($3.3 million) to develop public infrastructure in the Barkan industrial area, just outside Ariel in the West Bank. After a boisterous debate, the committee approved the funding. The Knesset members from Likud, Habayit Hayehudi, Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism and Shas voted in favor.

Nonetheless, the attorney general ordered to hold a revote in response to a request from the opposition, after he did not approve the transfer before the committee meeting. The Finance Ministry representative explained it was for the “Israeli Way Project” for establishing a visitors' center, but stated the attorney general had yet to give his final approval for transferring the funds, in opposition to what committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) said, which was the attorney general had given his approval to discuss the request.

The opposition acted to delay the approval by asking to hold a party consultation. MK Issawi Freij (Meretz) claimed the establishment of the visitors' center in the settlement was an election ploy. “What you are doing here is contemptible,” said Freij.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta’al) asked “who on the ‘agreements committee’ approved this corrupt section? We are on the eve of presenting the slates and primaries, and I wonder if you think we are idiots? You are a gang of corrupt thieves. You lied to the committee. [We] need to put you on trial,” said Tibi.

Yogev Gardos of the treasury’s budgets division said: “We passed on the request to the attorney general and have not yet received a final approval. There is no reason the committee cannot approve it, but we will be unable to implement the transfer before receiving the approval.”

Slomiansky explained that he asked the treasury’s budget director Amir Levy Sunday morning whether the government is withdrawing its request, and he said no – and the committee can discuss it.

“I apologize,” said Slomiansky, saying he understood from his conversation in the morning with Levy that the attorney general had approved debating the matter. Only during the committee session it became clear the attorney general has yet to give his approval.