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News : Government Body Funds Call Center Marketing Illegal Homes
Oct. 29, 2013 -- The World Zionist Organization’s settlement department, which is financed through state budgets, has transferred monies to the settlement movement Amana over the past four years. The funds have been used to operate a call center for people interested in purchasing housing in the occupied territories, including apartments that were built illegally.
Amana, the settlement branch of the Yesha Council, is headed by Ze'ev ("Zambish") Hever. It operates a subsidiary company that constructs hundreds of housing units across the West Bank every year, including extensive and illegal operations in unauthorized outposts. Amana operates a call center that gives every caller details about potential purchases. The organization deliberately obscures any distinction between legal and illegal construction, and distributes a wealth of information on units that were built without permits.
In a conversation with Haaretz, call-center operators marketed a new house in the settlement of Eli that was built without permits.
To assist this marketing, over NIS 1 million was transferred, without a tender, over the last few years. In 2010 and 2011, NIS 250,000 and NIS 400,000, respectively, were transferred. In 2012, a further NIS 340,000 was given to Amana. Two weeks ago, on October 16, it was decided to transfer another NIS 300,000.
At no stage has the WZO formally inquired as to the number of people who called to obtain information, how many people purchased apartments, and in which settlements.
The debate over transferring funds is technical, and funding is automatically approved every year. The agency did not demand only legal housing be marketed. Also, no one asked why an incorporated company is receiving public funds to advertise houses from which it makes profits when they're sold.
In June, Haaretz reported that the budget of the WZO's settlement department keeps growing every year. In 2012, it grew from NIS 60 million to NIS 272 million.
In a report investigating the illegal outposts, written in 2005, attorney Talia Sasson found many flaws in the department's operations. Among other things, Sasson found that the department had financed illegal construction for many years in various locations.
Following that report, then Attorney General Menachem Mazuz issued directives forbidding the transfer of public funds to finance illegal construction. Nevertheless, Haaretz discovered that the settlement department at the WZO illegally transferred funds for infrastructure work, which was carried out last year at the settlement of Negohot.
Amana and the World Zionist Organization's settlement department refused to comment.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013