State Comptroller Yosef Shapira
State Comptroller Yosef ShapiraYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The Regavim NGO, which monitors and takes legal action against illegal Arab building across Israel, published a response to State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s report on local authorities published on Tuesday.

The report critiqued the conduct of local authorities across Israel, including that of the Binyamin Regional Council, which it insinuated was showing favoritism in providing financial support for Regavim over other organizations.

According to the report, criteria established by the Binyamin Council for eligibility to receive financial support were so specific that very few organizations could meet them. Such was the case, the report said, for the criteria "bodies working to protect land" and "bodies working to redeem land in Judea and Samaria," about which the report said there was suspicion that they were "custom tailored" to certain organizations.

"An examination of the Council's conduct with respect to the granting of support and its agreements with suppliers raises grave concern that the Council has preferred certain NGOs and suppliers to other NGOS and suppliers. This raises concerns about the violation of the principles of equality, savings and efficiency that underlie the rules governing the granting of subsidies and the basis of the laws of tenders,” the State Comptroller concluded.

Regavim took issue with the claims, asking, “Why should upholding Israeli law be considered less legitimate a cause than supporting illegal migrants?”

“Support for Regavim’s activism by local authorities and municipalities is carried out in strict adherence to the law and according to the highest standards of good governance,” Regavim emphasized in a response. “While some municipalities in Israel waste the public’s money on support for extreme anti-Zionist organizations, others, like the local authorities of Judea and Samaria, believe that the preservation of State land is in the public interest, and is a Zionist value of the highest order - and we at Regavim take pride in their support.”

“Regavim has been recognized for more than a decade as a major force in protecting and preserving Israel’s State land, combating illegal construction throughout Israel, and defending Israel’s natural resources against misuse and abuse, and Regavim has been a steadfast advocate for procedural integrity in these matters. It should come as no surprise that the Binyamin Local Authority, like other local authorities and municipalities, supports Regavim’s activities within their jurisdiction.

“While the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality spends hundreds of thousands of shekels of taxpayers’ money each year funding radical, anti-Zionist organizations, including a host of organizations that support and defend illegal migrants from Africa, ‘Doctors for Human Rights,’ performances of The Yaffo Theater that promote the ‘Nakba’ narrative, and the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), we at Regavim take pride in the fact that local authorities in Judea and Samaria actively promote the Zionist ideal of protecting State lands.

“The High Court of Justice has long permitted local authorities and municipalities to support public activism in matters of national and local public policy, so long as the rules of proper governance are upheld and the matter is cleared and overseen by legal counsel.

“The insinuation that there is some improper connection between the support of the Binyamin Local Authority and the fact that Regavim’s Director General served in the past as the Assistant to the Mayor is unfounded and indefensible; the Binyamin Local Authority is one of many municipalities that support Regavim’s activities, some to a much greater extent. Furthermore, the activities of Regavim’s Director General are carried out according to directives set out by legal counsel, in strict accordance with guidelines that prevent conflicts of interest or misrepresentation.

“Regavim invests tremendous effort in promoting good governance, which makes it only natural that we would appeal to the courts against governmental bodies that have been negligent in carrying out their duties – claims that have been proven in court.

“Only a few days ago, the High Court of Justice praised a motion brought by Regavim - a motion supported, in part, by the Binyamin Local Authority regarding an area within its jurisdiction - against illegal construction and seizure of land. In its decision, the High Court stated that “indeed, motions of this kind are helpful in shining a spotlight on the area.

“The claim made in the Comptroller’s Report, that it is illegitimate or unacceptable for a municipality to support legal action taken against the Government when the latter has not met its responsibilities or obligations, is as ridiculous as the claim that it would be illegitimate for the State Comptroller to criticize the Government because its budget is funded by the Government,” Regavim concluded.