Cabinet Votes to Curtail Barak's Power to Veto West Bank Settlement Construction

Decision moves control of the World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division from the Agriculture Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office.

The cabinet voted on Sunday to curtail Defense Minister Ehud Barak's authority to supervise construction in West Bank settlements.

The proposal revokes Barak's right to veto West Bank construction by the World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division. The division budgets NIS 25 million a year for this purpose.


The Settlement Division was set up in 1967 after Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula. For years, it was tasked with building settlements in the West Bank and did not deal with the Negev or Galilee at all.

The decision which the cabinet approved on Sunday moves the division from the Agriculture Ministry, headed by Orit Noked of Barak's Atzmaut Party, back to the Prime Minister's Office, where it would be subject directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Attorney Talia Sasson's report on illegal West Bank settlement outposts, which was published in March 2005 and later adopted by the cabinet, said the division mainly set up unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, without the government's approval, including some that were on privately-owned Palestinian land.

Sasson recommended disbanding the division. The state comptroller has also castigated the division's activity.