The board chairman and the CEO of the Israel Roads Company met with Transportation Minister Miri Regev last Wednesday in what could only be described as a political campaign appearance designed to appeal to her electorate in the West Bank.
The three attended a celebration to mark the start of construction on the 7-kilometer Hawara bypass road, which is slated to connect the Tapuah junction and the settlement of Yitzhar at a cost of 260 million shekels.
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The meeting came two hours after the Israel Roads Company’s board met in order to sign a Government Companies Authority document committing to uphold the ban on government companies from aiding election campaigns in any form.
At that meeting, the board approved a document by the Government Companies Authority reminding them of their obligation to not use government company employees or assets in election campaigns.
“This document emphasizes the importance of not damaging public trust through political behavior at government companies – and to maintain the ban, on using company assets in any form for political purposes,” it states.
Israel’s political campaign law forbids government companies from presenting their accomplishments as due to any individual, or with timing that would advance any candidate or party.
“Publications should be examined based on their timing, their context and their interpretation by reasonable individuals,” states the document. “Publications should reflect business operations alone, with board oversight, in keeping with the company’s corporate policy and budget.”
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Israel Roads Company CEO Nissim Peretz spoke at the event, explaining the justification for the project. Next to him stood Regev, Shomron Regional Council head and Likud Central Committee member Yossi Dagan, Shomron region chief rabbi Elyakim Levanon, and Israel Roads Company chairman Yigal Amadi, also a Likud member, who was recently appointed by Regev.
“At your instruction, minister, we received the budget and we started work,” stated Peretz.
Regev, for her part, thanked the representatives of the government company. “We’ll sit with Yigal [Amadi] and with you [Peretz] and we’ll see what budgets we can allocate you,” she said.
The Hawara bypass road is one of the main strategic road development projects being advanced by West Bank settler leaders. Progress was stuck for two years under Civil Administration management. Following a Yesha Council of Settlements campaign, Regev’s predecessor, MK Betzalel Smotrich, transferred the project to the IRC, which is overseen by the Transportation Ministry.
The IRC worked quickly, hiring a contractor in December. Regev claimed credit, and in a visit to the West Bank, she claimed credit for the start of construction as well.
Regev did not attend the ceremony marking the reconstruction of Route 79, a 32-kilometer stretch between Kiryat Bialik and Reineh in the north that was the scene of many bloody accidents and was redone at a cost of 2.5 billion shekels.
In the West Bank, however, even installing new lighting between the eastern side of Ariel and the Rahelim junction called for a celebration that mandated the minister’s attendance, as did the launch of the 181 bus line between Sha’ar Binyamin and the Shapirim parking lot, an event that Regev broadcast live on her Facebook page.
After the Hawara bypass event, Regev and the IRC executives continued to another event to mark the 17-million shekel installation of street lights along Te’enim crossing and Avnei Hefetz, Einav and Shavei Shomron. At that event, Levanon said of Regev, “We wish for her that she’ll be a minister in a month, too,” in a reference to the upcoming election. “Amen,” the crowd responded.
Violations of the election campaign law is a criminal offense, and the law entrusts the board and CEO of government companies with upholding it.
Regev’s bureau stated in response, “The groundbreaking on the Hawara bypass road and the project to add streetlights on West Bank roads are an important part of implementing the minister’s vision, ‘Connecting Israel,” in the West Bank as well, and part of the minister’s professional work, which was approved regardless of the elections.... Minister Regev continues to advance the matters under her responsibility.”
IRC stated in response: “The Hawara bypass road is of top importance in terms of safety and security, and is on the company’s multi-year agenda, alongside 281 other projects around the country. The start of construction is an important benchmark that justifies a professional visit by the minister.”