Uri Ariel: Coalition Expansion ‘Very Theoretical’

Outgoing Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel expressed hope and faith in the ability of the party to do well during the 20th Knesset on Wednesday, in a special Arutz Sheva interview. 

Ariel, who will be appointed Agriculture Minister in the next government, was first asked what legacy he leaves for his successor at the Ministry of Construction, MK Yoav Galant (Kulanu).

Ariel says that he "leaves Yoav Galant with excellent staff at the Ministry of Construction, the team has proven itself and has exceptional marketing never before in Israel – over fifty thousand units [sold and built] in 2014."

''The second area is public housing, where we brought an unprecedented turning point in 15 years – we're also selling apartments to eligible persons through Amidar and other companies, entering billions of shekels into the public housing fund," he added, noting that the funds will be used to benefit the poor for years to come. 

Ariel was blasé about Galant's potential to reverse all of the changes he's made, noting that what matters is finding solutions for Israel's housing crisis. 

"I hope he will succeed and I wish him much success with the Finance Ministry [. . ] and that Israeli citizens benefit and get what they deserve," he said. 

Ariel firmly supported the new government despite the hectic coalition talks and the precariousness of a government with just 61 MKs.

"I say that we are very sharp and clear in this matter – we work together with the Prime Minister and give him support for what he brought to the government and to the Knesset," he declared, "as well as with Finance Minister Kahlon, [UTJ Chairman Yaakov] Litzmann and [Shas Chairman and Economy Minister] Aryeh Deri." 

In the meantime, he said, "we must be serious about getting back to work. We spent half a year on elections. There are only a few more months until the budget needs to be approved and we have closed the gaps and can support each office – unless there are unusual circumstances, which is unlikely to happen because these things are agreed upon in advance and it should be easy to reach an understanding." 

"So I will act, as well as other members of the faction headed by [Education] Minister [Naftali] Bennett, and I hope that the response will be reciprocal, so that we all benefit from being elected by Israel for the benefit of its citizens."

Ariel also clarified that any moves for the coalition to approach Labor and form a unity government not only have to be coordinated with Jewish Home, but also other coalition partners. 

''The Prime Minister said clearly, and it is also written in the agreements, that they [Likud] are planning to expand," he explained. "I want to draw your attention to the fact that we are now following the prescribed guidelines and coalition agreements and it is not easy and is unlikely to break them, and I hope that whoever wants to join will not do so in the near future." 

"We will also budget for 2015-2016, so that anyone who joins, will be very much ready and will be adding to work already in progress along government guidelines," he added. "So many things are possible, but if they happen or they don't, it seems to me that no one is joining until after the budget is formed." 

Regarding approaching the Left, Ariel was skeptical it would work. "I heard Litzmann stating he would not sit with [Yesh Atid chairman Yair] Lapid," he reflected. "I do not think anyone can reject outright the entry of another party as it integrates to the existing government on the basis of budgetary guidelines and coalition agreements."

"We will respond that such a possibility exists and see what the requirements and requests are," he added, noting that some conflicts could be resolved but it is otherwise "very theoretical." 

Fight for Judea-Samaria

Ariel was then asked whether he would be able to fight for the World Zionist Organization (WZO) Settlement Division, the legal liaison between residents of Judea and Samaria and the government which was transferred to his jurisdiction during the next government; the Attorney General's Office is against the Division itself. 

Ariel, for his part, believed that "there is no need to fight, but a dialogue must be carried out with government legal adviser" over the issue.

''We put the continued functioning of the Settlement Division into coalition agreements," he stated. "The Legal Advisor has a number of comments on the issue which are worthy of study and reference a solution, and we must sit down and find a solution to the Division's performance." 

According to Ariel, the issue of transparency in how the Division's funds are handled – a frequent target for leftists –  is not the only issue worthy of study and discussion of a solution.

"The Settlement Division is a body that has no fancy nothing to hide, but what to be proud of," he said. 

He said the main problem is that the body belongs to the World Zionist Organization and funded by the Israeli government as part of the state budget – making the transparency issue more complicated.  

"We'll sit together and find solutions to the questions raised by various parties," he said. 

Later, he was asked if the decision not to include the government's guidelines the aspiration to promote political negotiations while also the omission of a desire to expand Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria was a decision was made to create a balance and allow the promotion of a process of expanding government both right and leftward." 

Ariel said the decision was meant "to avoid political land mines" and will ultimately prove the first litmus test of the new government. 

The interview concluded with a few comments over the destruction of two homes in Tekoa on Tuesday, which created an uproar. 

"Unfortunately, there were indeed two homes destroyed in Tekoa," he said. "A committee must be established as soon as possible, within weeks, according to our request to the coalition agreement, and this Committee should hold a debate and bring proposals for the venues and those houses."

''You should wait weeks to receive these recommendations and adopt them, and then act," he fired. "Unfortunately it happened [anyway]. I will work to ensure these things do not happen again, and I hope to wait until we have recommendations from the Committee and will act accordingly."

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/195378

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