An attempt by the Finance Ministry to control construction in the Palestinian territories was withdrawn in order to facilitate the passage the 2015 state budget, Ynet's sister publication Calcalist has learned.
The original form of the 2015 state budget, which passed a government vote late Tuesday night, included a clause determining that all settlement construction plans would be coordinated with and agreed upon by the Finance Ministry.
But shortly before the vote, Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the pro-settlement Bayit Yehudi party spotted the clause and declared that he would not support the budget unless it was removed.
The showdown came in the immediate run-up to the government vote on the budget, at around midnight last Tuesday night.
A senior Treasury official said during the government debate on the budget that the clause had been included due to a desire by Finance Minister Yair Lapid to be involved in planning for settlement construction, an issue that Lapid has often come out against.
Ariel said he was shocked "to discover that this clause was an attempt by the finance minister to bring his politics into the budget." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed surprise at the inclusion of the clause, and asked Lapid if he did not have an interest in construction planning in the West Bank. According to those present, the prime minister told Lapid, "Do you want to leave the government? Say you want to and leave."
Finance Ministry officials Amir Levy and Eran Nitzan explained that the decision stemmed from a desire to centralize control of all planning decisions made in Israel. The fact that the matter was not controlled in one place was one cause of the housing crisis in Israel , the officials said.
Netanyahu then gave the two sides a short period of time to reach an understanding so that the budget vote could take place. The director-general of the Housing Ministry, Shlomo Ben Eliyahu and the Treasury officials continued the discussion in a side room, where they decided that the contentious clause would be removed, and instead agreed to establish an inter-ministerial committee on the issue of construction planning.
The deputy director-general of the Housing Ministry will head the committee, which will include representatives of housing and finance ministries, and the Treasury will not have the right of veto.