(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel is not backing down from his decision to withdraw national- service slots from B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, despite a letter from Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber on Thursday explaining that Ariel’s directive has no legal basis and is, therefore, void.
After the UN Human Rights Council report on Operation Protective Edge was published on Tuesday, the head of Bayit Yehudi, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, sharply criticized the left-wing Israeli organizations that helped compile the report, pointing to the numerous citations throughout the report that referred to B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence.
Ariel, also from Bayit Yehudi, is in charge of the Authority for National-Civic Service. He sent a directive on Tuesday to Sar-Shalom Djerbi, the agency’s director-general, to remove the volunteer slots at B’Tselem and ACRI, saying he would “not allow, under any circumstances, a delusional reality in which Israel finances slots for young people who act against its soldiers.”
B’Tselem was cited 72 times and ACRI four times in the UN report. Breaking the Silence also was cited throughout the report but does not have a volunteer slot through the Authority for National-Civic Service.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) turned to the Attorney-General’s Office on Tuesday to investigate the lawfulness of Ariel’s directive and the deputy attorney- general released a letter Thursday morning outlining the problematic nature of the order.
According to Zilber, the Authority for National-Civic Service has not yet been transferred to Ariel’s hands and, furthermore, it is not within his purview to rescind volunteer slots. Rather, she said, that authority lies with the director- general.
More important, Zilber explained that in order to rescind positions there must be clear and transparent criteria for when it happens and each case must be thoroughly investigated.
Zilber referred to her previous decisions regarding Djerbi’s attempt last August to withdraw volunteer slots from B’Tselem.
That decision also was deemed unlawful due to the lack of clear and transparent criteria.
Ariel announced on Thursday that he is not deterred by Zilber’s position, saying “the State of Israel will not fund those who work against it – plain and simple.”
“I suggest that MK Tamar Zandberg and her colleagues not celebrate too much. I am determined not to allow funding for national-service slots to go to extremist organizations that work against the State of Israel and its soldiers,” he said.
“In the coming few days I will work toward defining the new criteria to regulate the matter as required and no legal acrobatics will prevent this.”