Officials in the World Zionist Organization conducted a tour in the Samaria (Shomron) area on Tuesday under the heading of developing and strengthening the Jewish communities in the region.
The officials were given a working tour of the Samaria Regional Council, and Mayor Gershon Mesika and his staff briefed the visitors on the problems stacked against them by government authorities, led by the Ministry of Defense. Among those affected by these problems are farmers, schools and communities in Samaria.
The visitors toured the local groves, vineyards and wineries in Samaria and the local industrial zone and made stops in the communities of Barkan, Itamar, Elon Moreh and Har Bracha.
Among the participants in the tour was the new Director General of the WZO Settlement Division, Yaron Ben Ezra. His presence had special significance due to the fact that in recent years the Division has been headed by members of Kadima appointed by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. His appointment is a change in which for the past several months, the Settlement Division is headed by representatives of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, who are tightening their cooperation with the communities in Samaria.
Ben Ezra said following the tour that "the residents of Samaria are emissaries of the State of Israel and when there are equal duties there are also equal rights, just as there are for residents of other regions in the country. I believe that the duty of state authorities is to help all citizens, including residents of Samaria, especially when the goal is to lead a normal life with dignity. The Settlement Division operates in Samaria under government decisions but is limited in its actions because of the parallel and often contradictory policies of the Ministry of Defense.” He was alluding to the fact that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who must sign all building permits in the area and has refrained from doing so, has in effect stopped new construction in Samaria despite the end of the building freeze.