Finance Ministry skirted rules in settler funding request, Knesset legal adviser says

Yanon’s letter followed a stormy Knesset Finance Committee meeting on Sunday in which NIS 12.8 million was approved for a new visitor center in the Barkan Industrial Park.

December 24, 2014 23:01
1 minute read.
Homes in West Bank settlement

Homes in West Bank settlement. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Finance Ministry failed to follow proper procedure by requesting funding for a settler visitor’s center without first obtaining legal clearance from the Attorney-General’s Office, Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon said on Wednesday.

He issued his statement in a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein. He asked that Weinstein instruct the government to follow proper rules and procedures by requesting funds only after all bureaucratic approvals have been obtained.

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Yinon’s letter followed a stormy Knesset Finance Committee meeting on Sunday in which NIS 12.8 million was approved for a new visitor’s center in the Barkan Industrial Park, located in the West Bank.

Labor politicians tried to halt the vote by noting that Weinstein’s approval had not been sought, as is necessary for financial transactions in an election period.

The Labor politicians accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also in charge of the Finance Ministry, of politically blackmailing voters by using that office to cater to right-wing voters.

They further noted that Weinstein’s authorization had not been sought for the funding transfer.

But committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) held a vote based on legal advice that a vote could be held since Weinstein’s approval was needed before the funds could be released.

Yinon said that Slomiansky had the right to hold the vote, but that the government’s practice of asking the Finance Committee to approve funding requests that still lack legal authorization must be halted.

“This is against all proper government procedure,” Yinon said.

“Knesset procedure should begin only after the government procedure has ended.”

The Attorney-General’s Office is also expected to rule on Sunday’s vote.

Separately, the General Elections Committee plans to rule on the matter of whether the Finance Committee can approve funding requests for new projects in West Bank settlements during an election period. It has asked for information from both Netanyahu and Slomiansky with regard to Sunday’s vote.

MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) had complained to the General Elections Committee about the Finance Committee votes on settlement funding this month and asked to halt such funding until the nation goes to the polls on March 17.

Besides objecting to funding for the Barkan visitor’s center, she also objected to the approval earlier this month of NIS 80m. for West Bank settlements, which occurred after the Knesset had dispersed.

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