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Left-Wing MKs Angered Over Government Funds to Judea-Samaria

Leftist MKs up in arms, accuse Finance Committee of 'lacking transparency', over allocations to Judea and Samaria.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 3/30/2014, 3:14 PM

MK Stav Shafir
MK Stav Shafir
Flash 90

The Knesset Finance Committee, headed by MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) approved a transfer of 177 million shekels ($50.6 million dollars) Sunday morning from the state Treasury to the Settlements Division of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) - the operational arm of the government for construction in Judea and Samaria and peripheral communities elsewhere. 

Globes gives the exact breakdown of the monies, which are divided amongst several different communities and regions. According to the financial news site, out of the 177.2 million, 24 million was allocated the Negev region; 22.5 million was allocated to the North, including the Golan Heights; 64.4 million went to the center of the country, including the Jordan Valley; 8.5 million was allocated to Hevron and the surrounding communities; 14 million for infrastructure rehabilitation of rural communities (Ayelet HaShahar, Kfar Giladi, Yesod Ha Ma'aleh, Tel - Adashim, Ramat Hashoftim, Tse'elim , etc.); 13 million to community councils and other groups within Judea and Samaria; 2.5 million for students on student villages in those areas; 3 million to Gush Katif refugees and 1.5 million for immigrant absorptions into Jewish communities in relevant areas. 

Left-wing anger

Much political back-and-forth ensued over transparency of the funds, which leftists argued could not be traced by the Knesset. While Globes published the full breakdown above - thus proving that the money can be tracked, at least at the outset, MKs called for even more transparency as a condition for the monies to be transferred. 

Yesh Atid MKs Ofer Shelah, Boaz Toporovsky and Karin Elharar rallied behind the move, according to Walla! News. Toporovsky had boasted that he helped prevent the transfer last week, but allegedly changed his mind. According to the daily, Toporovsky gave his support for the bill in exchange for the commitment of Chairman of the Constitutional Committee, MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu), to hold a hearing on the issue of transparency regarding funds allocated to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. 

MK Elazar Stern (HaTnua) opposed the transfer.

"The Prime Minister's budget encompasses so many different areas," Stern stated. "It seems like he is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. I understand that being a member of a coalition in some aspects is no picnic, but there is a limit to everything." 

MK Stav Shafir (Labor), who slammed the State's transfers of money to Judea and Samaria next week, also heavily criticized the decision.

"The next time Yesh Atid MKs ask where the State's money is, the public should remember how the MKs themselves prevented the information [about the State budget] from being published," she fired. "Half an hour after they promised they would not vote in favor of transferring funds to the Settlement Division until the Division becomes subject to transparency, they bow to Jewish Home and confirmed the transfers of hundreds of millions of shekel, and have no clue or idea where half the money will end up." 

Last week, Shafir raised eyebrows in the Knesset and media when she made false claims that Israel pays extra money to residents in Judea and Samaria - as well as other communities not in the heavily-populated Merkaz area - "under the table." 

“The government is keeping this over-budgeting a secret from the public, because what will people think in Be'er Sheva, Haifa or Jerusalem, once they find out that people living beyond the Green Line are given houses, summer camps and public buildings for free - at the expense of other citizens Israel?” she said.

“Instead of equally dividing the tax money among the general public in Israel, one small group receives more than everyone else, under the table,” claimed Shafir.

The left has criticized the Israeli government, particularly Finance Minister Yair Lapid, for giving “too much money” to Judea and Samaria at the expense of other places in Israel.

Lapid recently ordered that all money transfers to Judea and Samaria be stopped, following a publication on Channel 2 claiming that money is indirectly passing from the state's coffers to Judea and Samaria's Yesha Council. The hold on transfers has been ordered until the claims are investigated.

Yesha Council officials, who represent Jewish communities in the Judea-Samaria region, have categorically rejected the accusations.