Knesset Digs but Settlement Funding Still a Secret

Discussion of WZO Settlement Division’s transparency in Constitution Committee to be postponed until further notice

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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How much money the WZO allocates for settlement construction in the West Bank remains a mystery.
How much money the WZO allocates for settlement construction in the West Bank remains a mystery.Credit: Nir Kafri
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee decided Wednesday to hold a repeat discussion of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s request to apply the Freedom of Information Law to the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division. But MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), the committee chairman, said he had no intention of setting a date for the repeat discussion, which could cause the idea to be buried.

The Settlement Division serves as the government’s operational arm regarding settlement and the construction of infrastructure, including in West Bank settlements. Since the Freedom of Information Law has not applied to the Settlement Division so far, the transfer of budgets from it to the various projects was carried out without transparency, and the scope of the government’s practical investment in the settlements cannot be known.

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee held a vote Wednesday on the request of MKs Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) and Elazar Stern (Hatnuah) to hold the repeat discussion. This was after Rotem decided several weeks ago to hold a vote on the matter when he saw that only he and MK Shuli Moalem (Habayit Hayehudi) were present. Both Rotem and Moalem are opposed to transparency.

“The problem is not one of transparency or of shekels,” Stern said on Wednesday. “The main problem is in shaping the State of Israel’s image in dishonest ways. The link between concealing funds, out of various motives, within the Finance Committee and supporting the lack of transparency of agencies that receive budgets from the state is a terrible blow to the basis of Israeli democracy. This measure puts an enormous budget in places where the nation of Israel, in its democratic way, never intended they should go. Unfortunately, they also play a role in shaping Israeli society according to the spirit of the ones transferring the funds,” Stern said.

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