Houses can be seen at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Jordan Valley.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Right-wing members of the Knesset Finance Committee approved NIS 12.8 million for a visitor center in the Barkan Industrial Park located in the West Bank, in-spite of the legal objections raised by left-wing politicians.
“This is absolutely illegal,” yelled out Left-wing committee members as their peers held up their hands to vote the matter on Sunday morning, in spite of the pitched shouting match that broke out around them.
The funds were only a small fraction of the NIS 8.1 billion the Finance Committee approved, the bulk of which NIS 5.7 billion went to the country’s health services, followed by NIS 940 million for security issues related to last summer’s Gaza’s military operation, Protective Edge.
But left-wing Finance Committee members balked at the Barkan project, which they said was the kind-of-non essential item with political overtones that should not be approved in an election season.
The Finance Ministry, which is now under the auspices of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had requested the funds last week. Left wing politicians believe that he did so to cater to right wing voters in advance of the March 17th general elections.
“It was outrageous,” MK Erel Margalit later told The Jerusalem Post
He charged both to the Post and during the committee meeting that the request lacked the necessary legal approval from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and was not backed by the Knesset legal adviser.
Margalit said he raised all these objections during the meeting itself.
The funding was approved, he said, based on a shaky legal opinion from the Finance Ministry that a vote could be held but that the money could not yet be released for the project.
It’s the type of political “hijacking” that discredits the committee, Margalit said. It is also an “end-of-the-year gift for the settlers,” he added.
But Finance Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said that the committee had the legal right to vote the matter, and had received advice on that score from the committee’s legal adviser.
Slomiansky added, that it was not customary, in any event, to question the legality of a government backed funding request.
“Residents of Judea and Samaria have equal rights and responsibilities,” Slomiansky said.
It’s “cynical” to attack funding for them, he added.
The Attorney-General’s office said that it needed time to respond to determine if permission had been granted for the vote.
The Barkan Industrial Park, which employes Israelis and Palestinians, is located 10.5 kilometers over the pre-1967 lines, in an area of the West Bank that is part of the settlement bloc surrounding the Jewish West Bank city of Ariel.
Palestinians oppose Jewish building in the West Bank, because they believe that area should be under their sovereignty and be included within their permanent borders in a two-state solution.
Israel considers that the Ariel bloc will become part of its permanent borders in any final status agreement with the Palestinians.