Houses can be seen at the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maale Efrayim in the Jordan Valley.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The World Zionist Organization Settlement Division will be required to be managed more transparently, according to legislation the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee approved for a second and third (final) vote Tuesday.
The final version of the bill, proposed by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), enshrines in law the existing role of the WZO Settlement Division, which helps found and develop rural settlements, at the government’s orders, in the Golan Heights, Binyamin and Judean Hills, Jordan Valley, Hebron Hills, the Galilee and the Negev.
The bill states that the government can exercise its authority over the Settlement Division, but not to turn it into a governmental body, and agreements signed between government offices and the Settlement Division will be supervised according to the principles of public law.
The Law, Constitution and Justice Committee voted to add articles requiring increased transparency in the way the Settlement Division manages its money. Its expenses, income, financial reports, budgetary decisions and implementation, tenders and contracts must all be transparent.
The committee rejected dozens of changes the opposition sought to make to the bill, and it is expected to reach a final vote next week.
The Zionist Union, especially MK Stav Shaffir, has come out against the Settlement Division in recent years, claiming a lack of transparency that has allowed disproportionate funding for West Bank settlements, citing research on the matter by left-wing think tank Molad.
Smotrich’s bill is a response to the criticism.
After the bill was authorized, Shaffir said: “It is simply disgraceful to see how an entire government bends over backwards to [Education Minister Naftali] Bennett and Smotrich’s anarchism, which authorizes the Settlement Division’s corrupt behavior.
According to Shaffir, “the Settlement Division squeezes out Israeli citizens’ taxpayer money and sends them to settlements and Bayit Yehudi NGOs instead of the periphery.
“Shame on this government that cooperates with such behavior, which is leading us to a country with no laws and no national responsibility,” she declared.