Knesset rejects funding for inspectors to enforce moratorium
MK Uri Ariel: "I do not see a real need for more inspectors."
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
The Knesset Finance Committee on Tuesday rejected for the fifth consecutive time a request for funding by the Defense Ministry to pay for inspectors to enforce the 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction.In accordance with a request from the Finance Committee, Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot attended the meeting to explain why the NIS 18 million was needed.Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, said the word “inspectors” was unfair, and did injustice to the civil servants who performed the difficult job of enforcing civil law in the West Bank.“The word inspector has turned into an term of condemnation for those who do this job,” he said.“Many [of the inspectors] live in the West Bank and are subjected to persecution. Their homes are targeted, their children are harassed at school and their parents’ homes in Jerusalem are targeted,” he said.After the meeting, Dangot added that he expects the MKs to condemn this kind of harassment.The NIS 18m. was not exclusively to fund inspectors for the moratorium, but also for officials from the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria to engage in other activities, including environmental and fire protection work, he said. Dangot could not say what proportion of the money would be dedicated to moratorium enforcement.A security source later told The Jerusalem Post that with the launch of the proximity talks this week, funding for the civil administration should be a high priority, given that it enforces government policy in the territories and works with both the Palestinians and the settlers.MKs from both the opposition and the coalition, led by MK Uri Ariel (National Union), refused to vote on the NIS 18m. before Defense Minister Ehud Barak stands before the committee to explain the need for the budgetary reallocation.“Since the prime minister refused to raise the issue of the moratorium for a debate in the Knesset, I must fulfill my democratic obligation and try to provide some oversight for the moratorium and its implications,” Ariel later explained to the Post.“The Finance Committee is meant exactly for this type of oversight over the country’s budgetary transfers, and because I do not see a real need for more inspectors, I am doing my duty in trying to probe the matter in depth. I must say that thus far, the Defense Ministry has yet to explain why it needs so many inspectors.“The official reason – to provide enforcement for the moratorium – is not logical. The moratorium will end in another five months, yet these inspectors are being recruited for two years,” Ariel said.“I’m happy that the committee members, including Kadima MKs, opposed the budgetary transfer. Barak himself will now need to come before the committee to explain the inspectors’ behavior before the committee will consider his request.”MK Ya’acov Edri (Kadima) blasted Barak for sending a military officer to explain a political decision.“The minister of defense or the director-general should come ratherthan sending an IDF officer,” Edri said in a complaint that was echoedby fellow MKs. “This was a government decision, but it is the IDF thatis stuck at the front lines. We don’t want to vote against the IDF, butBarak needs to come and explain the decision.”Although the committee voted to approve other changes to the budgetrequested by the Defense Ministry, Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni(United Torah Judaism) did not put the NIS 18m. item up for vote whenit became clear that, for the fifth time, the government did not havethe votes to pass it.Instead, Gafni thanked Dangot for coming and asked him to ask Barak to attend the next hearing on the budget item.Gafni said that relations between the powerful Knesset committee and the Defense Ministry had hit a low.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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