MK Calls for Probe of Shas Religious Appointments

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) said yesterday he wants the State Control Committee to order a comptroller's investigation into appointments made by Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi.

The announcement came as Haaretz reported that many members of Margi's Shas party have recently become members and heads of religious councils around the country, apparently due to the minister's efforts.

"Shas is turning the religious councils in Israel into a kind of monopoly, while pushing out anyone who isn't connected to Shas," he said.

Margi, who rejected allegations of impropriety, has been implementing a new regulation that lets him make appointments if, a year after elections, a local authority has failed to agree on who to appoint to the religious council.

Hasson called the Haaretz report "very troubling, in terms of both quality service and good administration."

He plans to convene the State Control Committee, which he heads, to order the state comptroller to investigate the appointments.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said yesterday he would request an urgent Knesset plenum debate on the matter. He called on the Knesset "to revoke the regulation allowing a minister to take advantage of his position for the good of his associates, and to allow the local authorities to freely choose their representatives in the religious councils."

"Shas will do everything it can to entrench itself, even if it entails trampling the local authorities, as long as no one is standing before it holding a stop sign," he said.

Associates of Shimon Biton, who was recently appointed head of the Petah Tikva religious council, said that although Margi supported his appointment, he is not affiliated with Shas.