Knesset: Israel Civil Administration Fails to Enforce Rent Law
The Knesset's Committee of State Control held a session today (Monday) holding the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) responsible for failing to enforce rent payments from Palestinian Arabs.
During the session, ICA officials admitted that they have "no means of collecting debt from the Palestinian Arabs." In response, the head of the Committee, MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), called for the enactment of sanctions and procedures to procure the missing payments.
"We are talking here about a double standard, the hard reality of a multiple system failure which allows the Palestinians to cynically exploit the country's land. The Department of Justice should be determined to work against the Palestinians [in this area] - just as they are with the [Jewish] Judea and Samaria residents when there is a breach of contract" states Cohen.
Cohen called for the ICA, the Department of Justice, and the Treasury to formulate a procedure within the next two months to help retrieve the missing funds from Judea and Samaria over the next 5-10 years. After those two months, the State Committee will reconvene to evaluate the matter.
Cohen also addressed Cabinet Secretary Avraham Mandelblitt to raise the issue in government talks.
"One [department] calls for restrictions on child allowances and raising the VAT, [the other department] does not collect money owed. The anarchy in Judea and Samaria causes neglect [. . .] the contamination of groundwater, pirated drilling, and water theft," warned Cohen, who further accused officials of "sitting around, getting paid, and not keeping track of the millions missing in the State Treasury."
Yossi Segal, the Commissioner of Lands in the ICA, conceded that "we are limited in the sanctions we can impose on the Palestinian Arab population, that does not pay for use of rented buildings or farmland under our jurisdiction."
Staff also referred to the State Comptroller's report that there are no lease fees collected from about 87 Israeli villages in the area.
Segal insists that the agreement for the villages and for the various areas has been drawn up, but the ICA lacks in sufficient manpower to cover the financial needs of over 150,000 residents. Segal stated that it is a fact that Israeli villages have never been asked for lease agreements; it was "an agreement originally made with the Finance Ministry, but the Ministry has since retracted" the agreement. He further states that the gas stations in the area have refused to pay lease agreements for several years, but that procedure will change by the end of 2014.
Amir Reshef, representing the Finance Ministry, responded that the Ministry lacks the necessary manpower to collect the debt. "The ICA already has the resources to advance the motion [of debt collection]. Already in 2008 we had 12 enactments planned for the sake of signing lease contracts, but it was cancelled due to budgetary considerations. We are still waiting for a legal opinion about how we can collect the debt lawfully, and regarding the exact sum to be charged."
Advocate Keren Dahari Bin-Nun from the Department of Justice argued that the Attorney General of the ICA was only appointed last year, and that "the problem will be dealt with soon." MK Orit Struk (Bayit HaYehudi/Jewish Home), stated that "the eye of the Department of Justice, that Big Brother, keeps track of every tiny action implemented in Judea and Samaria - and suddenly, regarding collecting money [from the Palestinian Authority], things have not moved along for years. Against the Jews [in the area], they act without hesitation, with all their strength, with no restraint; they lose all motivation to take action against the Palestinian [Arabs] and do nothing." Struk believes that the ICA and the Department of Justice are required by law to enforce the lease agreements. So did Likud-Beitenu MK Shimon Ohayon, stating, "We can't keep listening to half-answers from the ICA."
Sophia Ben-David from the Ministry of Agriculture added that "all farmers pay for the water they receive from the State, and we carefully monitor which plots of land are dedicated for growth and how they are used" before internal processing. ICA head Colonel Menahem David promised that the matter would begin to be resolved "within a few weeks" and that they would "ensure the payment for industrial areas" and allot a fund for maintaining the quarries "within the next two months."