elon moreh building.
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
After months of legislative ping-pong, the Defense Ministry emerged victorious Wednesday, when the Knesset Finance Committee agreed to fund a massive increase in building inspectors that opponents said would help enforce the West Bank construction moratorium.
Meeting for the fourth time to vote on the addition of NIS 14.4 million to the budget of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, several lawmakers, including Likud MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Miri Regev, who had previously opposed the measure, voted in favor this time, in spite of a last-ditch effort by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) to stop the funds.
MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) abstained from voting, and Shas and Israel Beiteinu representatives on the committee were conspicuously absent from the hearing.
The civil administration explained to committee members that only 11 of the 41 inspectors that were budgeted Wednesday will work to enforce the moratorium. The other 30, they said, would perform other enforcement activities, including preventing water theft, ecological damage and illegal Palestinian building.
Ariel, however, said that there had been an agreement within the coalition that only eight – and not 11 – new inspectors would be assigned to enforcing the moratorium, leading to a reduction of NIS 3.6m. from the original NIS 18m. budget presented to the committee.
This budget item has been raised before the committee several times in
recent months, and each time Ariel managed to scramble right-wing MKs
to the powerful committee to block the vote. Ariel noted that the
Defense Ministry has not explained why, if the moratorium is only
supposed to continue five more months, the inspectors are to be hired
for a two-year period.
The civil administration said that the request for the 41 inspectors
had been submitted far in advance of the moratorium, in June 2009, and
that the current roster of 15 inspectors for the entire West Bank was
not capable of handling the workload.
Ariel, who Tuesday complained that no budget had yet been approved for
compensation for those impacted by the freeze, said following
Wednesday’s meeting that “the committee’s behavior today was
scandalous, and it pains me to see committee members from Likud
swallowing the lies that removing three inspectors will help anything,
and voted together with the left-wing parties to approve the additional
inspectors without any real debate.”