Monday, September 14, 2009

Contradictory gov't policies affect West Bank children

Plan to fund armored transport, new schools for West Bank students thwarted by Defense Ministry

Yael Branovsky

The moratorium on building in West Bank settlements is already having an effect on pupils in the West Bank. A discussion held Monday in the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child revealed that the contradictory policies of the Defense and Education Ministries have blocked budget allocation to armored transportation for pupils living in the West Bank as well as expansion of educational institutions there.

The Education Ministry is claiming that the Defense Ministry has thwarted the building of day care centers and schools in the West Bank.

During Monday’s discussion, Education Ministry representative, Shai Rimsky, said, “Because the Defense Ministry does not recognize certain settlements, the Education Ministry cannot allocate funds for the building of educational institutions. Ultimately, the children suffer.”

According to data from the Knesset Research and Information Center, 75% of building requests submitted in 2009 were given the green light by the Education Ministry prior to receiving necessary and relevant documentation in each case.

Shomron Regional Council Mayor Gershon Mesika said that due to the contradictory policies in the two governmental ministries, 2,450 pupils have not been studying under normal conditions since the start of the school year.

“They are studying in leaky trailers without air conditioning. They can’t stay more than one hour in class. They feel like second class (kids),” said Mesika.

Maaleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel added that the Education Ministry are not the only ones to have encountered problems with the Defense Ministry. According to him, the Welfare Bureau also cannot pass budgets for the West Bank. As a result, there is not budget for funding social workers and day care centers in the region.

“Recently, 35 Ethiopian immigrant families, 220 people, have been absorbed in our city. There is no budget to centralize the absorption process or for employing specialized social workers. The Welfare Bureau does not pass budgets. Since the building freeze, the municipality has no income,” added Kashriel.

Representatives of the Defense Ministry did not attend the committee discussion.

Chairman of the committee, MK Danny Danon (Likud), placed the blame on Defense Minister Ehud Barak of “promoting a political agenda” at the expense of West Bank children.

“The fact that the Defense Ministry did not send a representative to the discussion is a disrespect to this Knesset committee. The children in Judea and Samaria are no less important than the children of foreign workers for whom the State has arranged (proper) educational facilities. The committee calls upon the Prime Minister’s Office to provide a special budget for education in Judea and Samaria.”

Chairperson of the Lobby for Children and Youth at Risk, MK Orly Levi (Yisrael Beiteinu) joined in the criticism leveled at the Defense Ministry, accusing it of denigrating the Knesset’s work.

“The committee is obligated to help the children Judea and Samaria. It is not right that children there feel like second class in the State of Israel,” commented Levi.

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