The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Thursday delayed a vote on whether to force the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division to reveal its budget reports, with committee chairman MK David Rotem telling left-wing MKs he was doing so to prevent them from receiving information on settlement funding and filing petitions against the division’s operations with the High Court of Justice.
Rotem admitted to the gathered MKs from the outset that he would like nothing more than to delay any real decision on the issue.
“The Settlement Division deals with construction beyond the Green Line, what you call the Occupied Territories,” Rotem said at the start of the meeting. “And therefore I would like to prevent you the option of filing High Court petitions (with this information).”
Rotem then jumped at an opportunity presented to him by Jewish Home MK Orit Strock, who asked to be given time to discuss the “difficult” proposal with her faction before putting it to a vote.
“I give you (time to discuss it) until after Passover,” Rotem said.
This provoked enraged responses from left-leaning parliamentarians.
“Mister Chairman are you making a joke at our expense?” Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-On asked. “You called a meeting, we cleared our entire schedule… You can’t bring us here and then tell us there won’t be a vote.”
Hatnua MK Elazar Stern accused Rotem of deceiving committee members and engaging in cheap trickery to delay the vote.
“I thought things were being done honestly (in the Settlement Division) but apparently not,” Stern said. “Your behavior serves as unequivocal testimony that state funds are being stolen by the Settlement Division.”
Labor MK Mickey Rosenthal said Rotem was “behaving like a neighborhood bully. This is not the behavior of a Knesset committee chairman.”
Rotem brushed the accusations and criticism aside and delayed the vote. Following the meeting, several MKs appealed to Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon to give his professional opinion on the legitimacy of Rotem’s conduct, which they said was unbecoming of a committee chairman.