Gov’t. Seeks Power to End Corruption in Religious Councils

A bill that would empower the government to re-organize local religious councils has been referred to committee by the Knesset. The measure was introduced by Dr. Zerach Warhaftig, Minister for Religious Affairs in the aftermath of recent disclosures of corruption and inefficiency in almost all departments of Jerusalem’s religious council.

According to the bill, the minister would be empowered to appoint officials to take over a corrupt or poorly functioning department. Dr. Warhaftig stressed that he was not seeking powers to substitute appointed officials for elected ones. He said he only wanted the power to appoint a competent civil servant to run a department that had broken down causing public inconvenience. He cited the marriage registration bureau and slaughterhouse as examples of departments of the Jerusalem religious council that have broken down because of strikes or maladministration.

Warhaftig was challenged by Uri Avneri of the Free Center faction who charged that the religious councils existed only to provide funds for the National Religious Party and jobs for the party faithful. Menachem Porush of Agudat Israel charged that the NRP was trying to keep other religious parties out of the councils. Religious councils which exist in all Israeli cities and towns are funded by the local authorities and the Ministry for Religious Affairs which is controlled by the NRP.

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