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

Anticipated decision would move control of World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division from Agriculture Ministry to Prime Minister's Office.

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

The proposal would revoke 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.

Barak - AP - March 24, 2011

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.

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.

In 2007, the cabinet decided to move the settlement division from the Prime Minister's Office to the Agriculture Ministry, where it was put in charge of developing rural communities in the Negev and Galilee. The cabinet earmarked 66 percent of the division's budget for the Negev and Galilee and 34 percent - NIS 25 million a year - for the West Bank.

The decision the cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday would move 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.