State Evades Tender, as Settlement Receives 120 New West Bank Homes

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On demands state comptroller look into legality of the Housing Ministry's move, insists it must be immediately stopped.

The Housing Ministry has sold the settlement of Eilon Moreh 120 apartments in 20 buildings in the community, for an average price of $78,000 per unit. This was done without a tender and with the approval of Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.

A letter from the treasury's Accountant General's Office to the Committee for Tender Exemptions at the Finance Ministry on November 25, 2010 states the Housing Ministry built the apartments between 1989 and 1992, at the time of the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. Due to construction flaws and problems with the contractor, the company managing the apartments and handling tenants refused to accept the apartments. As late as 10 years ago, they stood empty.

Settlers building in Elon Moreh
tomer Appelbaum

At that time, according to the letter, "the community took over the management of the apartments" and filled 80 of them with families and yeshiva students. The residents pay the community a monthly fee of NIS 300, which is used to cover routine maintenance as well as the cost of fixing up the apartments before new tenants take them over.

Following a request by the settlement to purchase the apartments, a decision was made to sell the lot for a total price of NIS 9,367,000. The letter states that the sale price is derived from the average of three, independent property valuations.

The letter states: "In view of the past, and in order to prevent additional costs for the Housing Ministry, and to lift any responsibility from the ministry for the apartments, the Accountant General recommends the approval of the sale without a tender and with the approval of the Ministry of Finance. Last Monday, it was published in Reshumot [the official government newspaper] that the decision had been approved by the Minister of Finance 'under special circumstances.'"

Former Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On, who learned of the details of the deal, demanded that the state comptroller look into the legality of the Housing Ministry move, and insisted that it must be immediately stopped. She said the price for the apartments is ridiculous, in view of their market value. Gal-On said: "The state cannot make such deals, moving money from one pocket to another at the tax payers' expense, in order to favor a construction boom in the settlements."