The World Zionist Organisation’s (WZO) Settlements Division is again under the control of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office after a period of nearly four years with the Agriculture Ministry.
The Jerusalem Post reports that one of the first decisions made by the newly-configured coalition government was to return the WZO’s Settlement Division to the Prime Minister’s Office. The move is part of the coalition’s agreement with the newly-formed Independence faction led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak although it was done at the request of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

In 2007 it was moved from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Labour-led Agriculture Ministry during the tenure of former prime minister Ehud Olmert. The move was a technical one, since the government controls the division’s budget, but at the time it was believed that the shift to a Labour-led ministry would help shift the division’s focus from the West Bank to the Negev and the Galilee

While the division is technically part of a non-governmental agency, the WZO, it has been contracted for decades to execute government- funded projects in occupied Palestinian territory.

The move has been welcomed by settler groups and right-wing politicians who are hopeful that the return to the Prime Minister’s Office will push the division’s focus back to the settlements.

“It’s a positive development,” said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria (West Bank) and the Gaza Strip.

Likud MK Danny Danon told The Jerusalem Post that he hoped it would remove some of the bureaucratic problems that had made it difficult for the settlements to receive funding.

Settlements built over the Green Line in occupied territory are illegal according to international law and are seen as a major obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.