Yesh Din: Freeze government funds to WZO settlement division

Police complete criminal probe of WZO officials suspected of handing over lands belonging to Palestinian farmers to Ofra.

yesh din 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yesh din 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The watchdog organization Yesh Din has called on Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to freeze the transfer of government funds to the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization earmarked for West Bank settlements, while law enforcement authorities investigate allegations that it handed over privately owned Palestinian land for development to settlers in Ofra. On July 19, the government passed a resolution stating that 34 percent of government funds allocated in the state budget to the WZO would be spent on projects in the West Bank. On the day of the government decision, newspapers reported that police in the Binyamin district of the West Bank had recently completed a criminal investigation of officials in the WZO suspected of handing over lands belonging to Palestinian farmers to Ofra to build a new neighborhood. "It is not clear how the government continues to channel money to the Settlement Division and fund a body regarding which the cloud of illegality hovering over it grows darker each day, in terms of the findings of the Sasson Report [on illegal outposts compiled by attorney Talia Sasson, former head of the Special Tasks Division of the State Attorney's Office] and in light of the criminal investigation recently opened," wrote Shlomy Zecharia, a Yesh Din attorney. In mentioning the Sasson Report, Zecharia was referring to Sasson's charges that the WZO was deeply involved in the establishment of the illegal outposts. It allegedly allocated land to Jewish settlers in the West Bank even though it was not authorized to do so, and its authorizations sometimes included privately owned Palestinian land. Zecharia also pointed out that the government had accepted the findings of the Sasson Report and declared that it "approves the principle lying at the basis of the opinion, whereby the government must be strict and guarantee that land allocation, planning, construction and the bringing of occupants to the settlements, existing or new, in the area of Judea and Samaria be done legally and in accordance with government decisions." A spokesman for the WZO Settlement Division told The Jerusalem Post that the government budget for rural settlement activities comes from the Agriculture Ministry and that the division acts as a contractor to implement policy decisions made by the ministry. Therefore, he said, the WZO is not the right address for dealing with this issue.