Lacking Majority, Knesset Panel Balks at Funding WZO's Settlement Arm

Opposition by centrist Yesh Atid party forces Knesset Finance Committee to postpone vote on transferring $51 million.

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File photo: MK Stav Shaffir (R) at the Knesset. January 7, 2014.
File photo: MK Stav Shaffir (R) at the Knesset. January 7, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Opposition by the centrist Yesh Atid party forced the Knesset Finance Committee to postpone a vote on transferring 177 million shekels ($51 million) to the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division – the government’s operational arm in construction and infrastructure in the West Bank as well as Israel proper.

Last week, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee rejected a proposal by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to let her to sign a regulation applying the Freedom of Information Law on the settlement division. The rejection was achieved via stealth; committee chairman David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) held a vote when only MK Shuli Moalem (Habayit Hayehudi) was present, rejecting Livni’s proposal despite its support by most committee members.

Livni leads the centrist Hatnuah party; both Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi are on the right.

Leading the fight against the transfers, MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) told the Finance Committee chief, Nissan Slomiansky: “A body that lives off of public funds, without reporting what it does with the money, doesn’t deserve a shekel of our tax money.” MKs Shimon Solomon and Boaz Toporovsky of Yesh Atid joined her demand not to approve further funding without transparency.

MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah) said Habayit Hayehudi was responsible for concealing the fund transfers through the settlement division. “The committee rejected Tzipi’s proposal last week to make the settlement division transparent. It’s impossible to transfer within a week money to the same body that needs to be supervised,” he said.

Slomiansky realized he lacked a majority and took the vote off the agenda.

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