The confrontation between Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich and Minister of Interior Moshe Arbel continues regarding NIS 300 million in development grants to Arab local authorities that Smotrich is refusing to transfer.
Arbel has called on Smotrich to release the funds and warned that freezing them might, "lead to harming the ability of the local authorities to balance their books."
Smotrich told his coalition partner that he does not intend responding to Arbel's request because, "This is political coalition money given at the request of Ra'am and Mansour Abbas in the previous government and has no professional justification."
The disputed amount is NIS 300 million
Most of the disputed amount, about NIS 200 million, was earmarked for the current expenses of the Arab authorities, while another NIS 100 million is for the economic development of the Arab local authorities.
Arbel said that Smotrich's objections are contrary to the position of the senior officials in the Ministry of Finance. Smotrich says, "Contrary to what was stated in your letter, the Ministry of Finance officials also believe that this budget has no professional justification. They opposed it in the previous government and it was passed despite their opposition."
Smotrich tried to justify his actions in his letter to Arbel. He wrote, "Another problem that exists with these budgets is that they often go to criminal and terrorist organizations that have taken over the tenders and budgets in many of the Arab authorities. As you surely know, so far there is no mechanism that bypasses these tenders, certainly regarding the current budgets of the authorities, such as this grant. Tenders for garbage removal, gardening, transportation, etc. that originate from the budgets of the current authorities are carried out by the authorities themselves, and as mentioned, too often end up in the hands of criminal and terrorist elements, and these harm the personal security of all of us, Jews and Arabs alike, suppress the economy in Arab society and deepen corruption."
At the same time, Smotrich ordered setting another Ministry of Finance team, to examine ways to combat black capital and economic crime, in particular in Arab society. Such teams have already been established in recent years in the ministry of Finance, collected and submitted recommendations, most of which have not yet been implemented. It is not clear whether the new team will also discuss the possible consequences of drying up budgets to Arab authorities on crime levels.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 7, 2023.
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