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Funding Frozen to Ministry of Housing Projects

Hundreds of millions of shekels in money for new construction delayed transfer after MK Elazar Stern complains.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 4/7/2014, 6:35 PM

Hatnua MK Elazar Stern
Hatnua MK Elazar Stern
Flash 90

Hundreds of millions of shekels in government funding to Ministry of Housing projects have been frozen, according to IDF Radio, at the express request of MK Elazar Stern (HaTnua) for a review.  

"Unfortunately, the Housing Minister supports a lack of transparency [in how government funding is utilized], as reflected by activities of the Settlement Division," Stern accused Monday, blaming "narrow sectorial interests."

"It's hard for me to trust him [Housing Minister Uri Ariel]," Stern continued, "when his motives are doubted - I personally have trouble sending him so much money." 

MKs Against Building in Judea and Samaria

Stern's comments over "transparency" follow a heated debate in the Knesset last month over the transfer of funds to Judea and Samaria. 

Last month, Labor MK Stav Shafir 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." 

Yesha Council officials, who represent Jewish communities in the Judea-Samaria region, have categorically rejected the accusations. As such, 177 million shekels were transferred to the Settlement Division, which facilitates building in places other than Israel's populated central region (including the Galilee, Golan, and Negev).

Left-wing MKs claimed that the move signified another breach of transparency, but Globes published a full and detailed breakdown of the funds. 

Tenders and Talks

Stern's cries of 'transparency' also follow the announcement that 700 new building tenders were being processed by the Ministry of Housing for Jerusalem - a move that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as other leftist MKs, have insisted stymied peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). 

Housing Minister Ariel rejected the claims, however, pointing out Sunday that the tenders published had been submitted previously for review and have been recirculated as a matter of policy. 

"This is a mistake, this was not my decision, there is a procedural norm [in the Ministry] that tenders that do not get processed the first time around get re-submitted automatically," Ariel said, explaining that the tenders have been submitted for approval three times now. "Talks failed, and now Livni blames others." 

He also stated Saturday night that Livni's "wailing and crying about building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are crocodile tears from someone who knew about the plans beforehand, like the Palestinians and the Americans."