(photo credit: Courtesy/Regavim)
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich threatened Tuesday to absent himself from coalition- sponsored bills to protest efforts by Kulanu and United Torah Judaism MKs to block his controversial bill about the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division.
Smotrich says his bill would only set in law the status of the settlement division as it has been since before the founding of the state. But the bill’s critics said it would enable huge sums to be funneled to West Bank settlements without oversight.
In a stormy session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Tuesday, UTJ MK Moshe Gafni, Kulanu MKs, and Likud MK Bennie Begin prevented the bill from being brought to a vote ahead of its final readings in the Knesset plenum. A representative of the division called Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir a liar at the meeting.
Smotrich is expected to meet soon with coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi in order to settle the dispute that could destabilize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 61 MK coalition.
Both State Comptroller Yosef Shapira and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein have expressed reservations over the bill. Smotrich complained about leaks from their offices at the committee meeting.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog accused the government of funding settlements rather than the periphery, but Smotrich said the division funds building in the Negev and Galilee as well.
“This is not a matter of Right and Left but of proper management and transparency,” Yesh Atid MK Yael German said. “On the one hand, the bill would transfer authority from the government to the settlement division. On the other, it would free the division from all the rules of how public funds are managed.”