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State watchdog: Jewish Home minister transferred millions to benefit his cronies

A state comptroller report accuses Jewish Home minister Uri Ariel of transferring millions of shekels, earmarked for poor towns in Israel’s rural areas, to nonprofit organizations run by his political confidants during his tenure as housing minister.

The report urges Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to probe the case.

According to State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, in 2013-2014, Ariel surrounded himself with the leaders of various housing organizations and lobbyists who, while not employed by the ministry, were repeatedly misrepresented on ministry documents as official representatives.

Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the 'Besheva' group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel attends the 14th annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group, on February 12, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Those figures were actively involved in revising a government development plan for their own benefit to apply to all of Israel, rather than solely to poorer areas as was originally intended, the report said. Ministry employees were not included in the reformulation of the plan, known as Resolution 741, it says.

At their prodding, Ariel budgeted millions of shekels to middle- to upper-class areas in Tel Aviv and its suburbs, where the nonprofit organizations were situated, the report says.

— Marissa Newman

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