Israeli Lawmakers Demands Probe Into Alleged Funding of Religious Groups

Stav Shaffir calls on attorney general to investigate claims that Uri Ariel funneled money to groups led by cronies.

Uri Ariel touring scattered Bedouin encampments in Israel, August 2016. Ariel is seen talking on a cellphone next to a silver-colored van or pickup truck.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Knesset member Stav Shaffir has called on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to investigate the distribution of Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry funds to religious organizations.

The appeal, issued by the Zionist Union MK late Sunday, came in the wake of a report by Haaretz raising questions about the conduct of Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel.

In particular, Shaffir demanded a probe of allocations to nonprofit organizations managed by Rabbi Ariel Dorfman, a close associate of Ariel and member of the central committee of Tekuma, a partner in Ariel’s Habayit Hayehudi party. Shaffir said the allocations were made despite Dorfman’s being found to have a conflict of interest when he headed a ministry program for religious outreach in urban areas.

The Agriculture Ministry controls a budget of at least 110 million shekels ($29.2 million) that is intended for disadvantaged communities outside of central Israel. It is known that much of this money goes instead to groups of religiously observant young adults, affiliated with figures from Habayit Hayehudi, carrying out community outreach also in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and Or Yehuda