Cabinet Approves NIS 145m Budget Increase Ahead of Jerusalem Day

Report: Government not upholding vow to put offices in capital.

The government is alloting NIS 145.5 million to build more hotels in Jerusalem and an additional NIS 71.4 million for biotechnology research and development in the capital, the cabinet decided Sunday.

The cabinet also decided to provide financial aid for first-year students who have completed their military service and are attending a higher education institution in Jerusalem.

jerusalem - Emil Salman - May 30 2011
Emil Salman

"The unity of the city is one of the fundamentals of the unity of the nation of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the meeting, which was held at the Tower of David Museum ahead of Jerusalem Day on Wednesday. "These principles I stressed in my speeches before the Knesset and Congress. The broad support for these principles is an unbreakable asset for the State of Israel. The entire world knows that the nation of Israel and its friends are loyal to Jerusalem and our heritage and, strong in our convictions, extend a hand of peace to our neighbors. I think that today they recognize this better."

But for all the pledges and speeches, there are dozens of government offices - and 2,800 civil servants - that are supposed to operate out of the capital but do not, according to the report by the Hitorerut movement, which is represented on the city council.

The movement, which is meant to appeal to the young people of the city, says this runs contrary to the Basic Law requiring the Knesset, cabinet, Supreme Court and President's Residence to be located in Jerusalem - and costs the city more than NIS 37 million in municipal taxes that it would get every year if the offices were in the capital.

The report found that three ministers - Limor Livnat, Yossi Peled and Silvan Shalom - have their offices in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem. The ministers say that's because the government has failed to find them suitable offices in the capital.

"During the past two years the government housing authority has offered a number of alternatives for minister offices in Jerusalem, which they considered to be unsuitable for them," the treasury said in a statement. "We work in line with government decisions [to transfer government activities to the capital] and are seeking temporary and appropriate locations for the ministers."

The Hitorerut report also said nearly every ministry has offices in Tel Aviv or other cities, even if there's no evident need for it. The Prime Minister's Bureau said "the vast majority of government ministries and ministerial bureaus are in Jerusalem."

"There are unique cases in which the search for appropriate offices in Jerusalem is in varying stages of completion, and some are outside Jerusalem for professional reasons," the bureau said in a statement. "For example, the regional units of the ministries would naturally be in the region where they serve."