Antiquities Authority Worker Accused of Conflict of Interest

A senior Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist in charge of supervising excavations in the Ashkelon region owns a quarter of the shares of an excavations company the authority has accused of excavating without a permit.

Based on authority regulations, the situation appears to be a conflict of interest for the archaeologist, Yigal Yisrael.

"Employees are not permitted to do work... if it involves a conflict of interest with his position or with his work in the [civil] service, or if such a situation is liable to be created," according to civil service regulations that apply to Antiquities Authority employees.

The authority has been aware of the issue for years, but said it did not view it as being problematic.

"In the opinion of the authority's legal advisers, an employee is permitted to own stock, and there is no conflict of interest between Mr. Yisrael's work at the Antiquities Authority and his holdings in the company," the authority said.

Yisrael supervises companies and contractors carrying out excavations at antiquities sites.

The company in which Yisrael holds stock, Y.Y.Y.S. Excavations Development and Construction in Beit Shemesh, carries out precisely the kind of work he supervises. However, the antiquities authority said it has never hired Y.Y.Y.S.

When asked whether the company procures permits from the authority on its own, a Y.Y.Y.S. worker said: "He (Yisrael) works at the Antiquities Authority, so it will be easy if there's a problem or something. He doesn't physically work here, he works at the authority. We receive guidance from him if there are problems or anything."

The authority filed police complaints a few months ago charging Y.Y.Y.S. with carrying out work without a permit at an antiquities site in Ramat Beit Shemesh. At the authority's request, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court issued a standing injunction banning the company from carrying out work at antiquities sites without authority permission.

Yisrael confirmed that he is a part owner of Y.Y.Y.S., and that he does not think there is a problem with it.

"I personally don't think there is a conflict of interest," he said. "I have worked at the Antiquities Authority since the 1990s. The company was established afterward. All told, I have stock and part ownership, and the civil service regulations allow that."