Israeli Watchdog Raps Minister for Allotting Funds to Groups Close to Him

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira says he wants the attorney general to explore decisions by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, notably for activity when he was housing minister

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel meeting Bedouin parents at a high school in Hura, January 2015.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira harshly criticizes Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel for allocating funds to organizations run by people close to him, according to a comptroller report published Tuesday.

The allocations took place when Ariel was construction and housing minister between 2013 and 2015; Shapira calls on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to look into some of Ariel’s decisions during this period.

Ariel chairs the Tkuma faction of Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party.

Last September, Haaretz reported on how Ariel distributed money earmarked for Israel’s outskirts and poorer neighborhoods; a significant portion of this 110 million shekels ($30.6 million) went to religious groups doing community work managed by Tkuma people.

The recipients were located in well-to-do neighborhoods in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Or Yehuda, rather than in poorer areas.

Ariel channeled funds through his ministry or through the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, a body with fewer reporting requirements.

Meanwhile, the list of groups supported by the Settlement Division and the Housing Ministry is allegedly very similar to the list of groups supported by the Agriculture Ministry, where Ariel took over in 2015.

Some funds have allegedly gone to an organization in Ramle founded by a key Tkuma member, Ariel Ben-David.

For his part, Ariel said last September that such groups fulfilled a social function and that the Housing Ministry’s support for them was transparent and done without reference to religion or ethnicity.