WZO Settlement Division returns to the PMO

Since '67, division has assisted development over Green Line; Danon says he hopes move will remove bureaucratic problems for settlements.

Kiryat Netafim settlement in West Bank 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Kiryat Netafim settlement in West Bank 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Settlers view as a positive step Tuesday’s coalition decision to return the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The move is part of the coalition’s new agreement with the newly formed Independence faction led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. However, it was done at the request of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
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“It’s a positive development,” said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
Since 1967, the division has assisted development over the Green Line, including housing infrastructure.
While the division is technically part of a nongovernmental agency, the WZO, it has been contracted for decades to execute government- funded projects over the Green Line. No private donor funds were involved in these projects. Over seven years ago, the settlement division was given responsibility for developing infrastructures in the Negev and the Galilee.
It was moved from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Labor-led Agriculture Ministry in July 2007, during the tenure of former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
The move was a technical one, since the government controls the division’s budget, but at the time it was believed that the shift to a Labor-led ministry would help shift the division’s focus from the West Bank to the Negev and the Galilee.
As such, settlers and right-wing politicians are hopeful that the return to the Prime Minister’s Office will push the division’s focus back to the settlements.
Likud MK Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post that he hoped it would remove some of the bureaucratic problems that had made it difficult for the settlements to receive funding.
Dayan, however, was a bit more cautious in his praise.
“As much as it may be a positive development, the crucial thing now is to publish new tenders for the construction in the [settlement] cities and to advance plans for further construction in the settlements,” said Dayan.
“Those are things that have nothing to do, or very little, with the Settlement Division,” he added.