Zehava Gal-On at the President's residence 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) plans to impose the freedom of information
act on the World Zionist Organization’s settlements division, so that interested
citizens can receive details of its West Bank development activities.
informed the Knesset Law Committee on Sunday of her intention to do
Meretz party head MK Zehava Gal-On had asked Livni to take this step
after a number of entities, including nongovernmental group Yesh Din, had failed
to receive information from the division, which since 1968 has been in charge of
the initial development of West Bank settlements. This includes initial land
preparation and infrastructure.
In the last decade it has also been
involved in projects in the Negev and the Galilee.
settlements division operates under the auspices of the WZO, it executes the
direct orders of the Israeli government. Its funding comes from the
Knesset-approved state budget.
Earlier this month, Gal-On raised questions
about the division’s budget, which she noted was six times larger than the sum
allocated by the Knesset.
In June she wrote a letter to Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and the Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, in which she
asked them to limit budgetary transfers to the WZO settlements
In the letter, she explained that in 2011 the Knesset had
allocated a NIS 62.35 million to the division. But its actual budget with
additional monetary transfers grew to NIS 373.3m. Similarly, Gal-On wrote, in
2010 the division’s allocated budget was NIS 68.5m., but with monetary transfers
it grew to NIS 231m.
Neither Netanyahu nor Yinon responded to her
In response, WZO settlements division head Daniel Kritchman wrote
to Gal-On that it was understood that the initial Knesset budget was only a base
The additional money is added on a per-project basis, he
Kritchman noted, for example, that the WZO had prepared the land
for the new homes for former residents of the Migron outpost.
division, he said, also helped prepare land for the Gaza evacuees.
state comptroller as well as the WZO comptroller also examine the division’s
budget, he said.
Earlier in April, Gal-On turned to Livni and asked that
she impose the freedom of information act on the settlements division and to
declare it a public institution.
She explained that the division had
refused to hand over information on the grounds that the freedom of information
act was not applicable, because it was not a public institution. The High Court
of Justice upheld that decision.
Gal-On told Livni that since the
settlements division managed most of the state land in the West Bank, it should
be considered a public body.
Failure to apply the law, Gal-On said,
damages the public’s right to know.
When contacted by The Jerusalem Post,
the WZO settlements division referred the matter to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The PMO declined to comment.