Finance Committee approves funding for building inspectors

Civil Administration convinces MKs that more inspectors are necessary in W. Bank - but not only to enforce the moratorium.

elon moreh building (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
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 inrecent months, and each time Ariel managed to scramble right-wing MKsto the powerful committee to block the vote. Ariel noted that theDefense Ministry has not explained why, if the moratorium is onlysupposed to continue five more months, the inspectors are to be hiredfor a two-year period.
The civil administration said that the request for the 41 inspectorshad been submitted far in advance of the moratorium, in June 2009, andthat the current roster of 15 inspectors for the entire West Bank wasnot capable of handling the workload.
Ariel, who Tuesday complained that no budget had yet been approved forcompensation for those impacted by the freeze, said followingWednesday’s meeting that “the committee’s behavior today wasscandalous, and it pains me to see committee members from Likudswallowing the lies that removing three inspectors will help anything,and voted together with the left-wing parties to approve the additionalinspectors without any real debate.”