(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Israel Police are conducting an investigation into whether or not Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel misused public funds, sources in the police said Tuesday.
The revelation of the probe, which was first reported on Kan, the new public broadcasting corporation, came after State Comptroller Joseph Shapira called on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to investigate actions by the Construction Ministry and the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division between 2013-2015, when they were under Ariel’s authority.
The comptroller charged that during that period, Ariel reallocated funds meant for underfunded periphery communities to religious- Zionist communities in Tel Aviv and other central locations. He then asked people in the communities to vote for Bayit Yehudi, noting the money he had transferred to them.
Shapira wrote that Ariel also funded associates from special interest organizations in high economic status communities, advancing settlement in Judea and Samaria.
Left-wing MKs called for immediate legal action against Ariel.
“Uri Ariel needs to sit in prison and not at the cabinet table,” said Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir, who led the struggle against giving money to the Settlement Division. “The results of the report prove that instead of concerning himself with the periphery, Ariel lined the pockets of his friends and his party’s political activists with public money.”
Shaffir wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, asking him to fire Ariel.
“Once again it has been proven that the rule of the Right is corrupt and dark, systematically misusing taxpayer funds,” said Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog. “This proves the need to immediately replace the government with a centrist political bloc.”
Labor leadership candidate Erel Margalit complained that “Israel has become a state of its settlers.” He said a criminal investigation of Ariel must be opened after it was “proven once again that the government takes money intended for all citizens of the state and gives it to the government’s cronies.”
Ariel’s office responded by expressing satisfaction that the comptroller did not call for the attorney-general to investigate the minister’s actions. “The agriculture minister respects the comptroller’s findings and already instructed the relevant authorities to act according to them,” a representative said.