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World Zionist Organization Settlements Division Back With Netanyahu

Wednesday January 19, 2011 12:35 by IMEMC News - 1 of International Middle East Media Center Editorial Group

The World Zionist Organization'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 WZOís Settlement Division to the Prime Ministerís Office. The move is part of the coalitionís 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 Ministerís 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 divisionís budget, but at the time it was believed that the shift to a Labour-led ministry would help shift the divisionís 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 Ministerís Office will push the divisionís focus back to the settlements.

ďItís a positive development,Ē 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 inside the Palestinian occupied territories are illegal according to international law and are seen as a major obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

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