(photo credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry)
A Knesset panel dealt a blow to the freeze on new settler homes on Tuesday, when it rejected a funding request by the Defense Ministry for extra manpower to enforce the decree.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the Knesset’s Joint Committee for the Defense Budget to approve a two-year transfer of NIS 12 million from security to coordinating activities in the West Bank, to add 40 positions – 29 for the enforcement arm of the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria, and 11 within the Defense Ministry.
The committee, which combines members of the Finance Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, rejected the request by a vote of 4-2.
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and coalition MKs Miri Regev (Likud) and Amnon Cohen (Shas) joined MK Uri Ariel (National Union) in voting against the transfer, while Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) and MK Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) voted to support Labor chairman Barak’s proposal.
“The committee acted correctly in rejecting Barak’s request,” concluded Ariel, who was responsible for coordinating the opposition to the initiative.
“While the Palestinians build illegal estates without anyone doing anything, Barak is busy rounding up a budget for inspection of his draconian moratorium,” Ariel said.
He emphasized that when the 10-month moratorium against new settlement construction was put in place on November 29, he had warned Barak that his plan to add new inspectors and staff to enforce it was illegal as long as Barak had not received an okay from the joint committee.
Shortly afterwards, Ariel noticed that the Defense Ministry had published ads for the not-yet funded positions, which according to the advertisements would last for “two years,” and not for 10 months.
Ariel submitted an official request for clarification to the ministry, and the advertisements soon disappeared.
Ariel also wrote a letter to Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, in which he said that “as a member of the Committee for the Defense Budget and after looking into the matter, I would like to call to your attention that there is no approval – neither in terms of precedent nor in terms of budget [for extra staff for the moratorium]. Thus I ask you not to act in an illegal manner.”
MK Danny Danon (Likud) also slammed the request to increase civil administration funding at the expense of the security budget.
“Barak needs to be concerned with the security needs of the settlers and not with reinforcing the supervision of his draconian moratorium,” Danon said.
Although the job title associated with the funding request was for
“inspectors,” the civil administration spokesman said that the 29
positions were for a variety of tasks needed to enforce the moratorium,
but not for inspectors.
At the start of the moratorium, the civil administration only had 14
inspectors who could go out into the field to check compliance.
It was estimated that 40 were needed, out of whom close to 30 are now
in the field, according to the administration. The remaining 10 are in
Since the start of the housing start moratorium, inspectors have
visited all the settlements and handed out stop work orders. According
to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i (Labor), they have since found
that 29 settlements are in violation of the moratorium. But to date,
despite the threat that it would do so, the civil administration has
destroyed construction work at only three sites in one settlement,
Revava, west of Ariel.