Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel

Netanyahu aide asks watchdog to censor report on asylum seekers

Date: 17.3.14 Source: Haaretz, Ravit Hovel

The Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Harel Locker, recently asked State Comptroller Yosef Shapira to impose restrictions to access to the watchdog agency’s report on the handling of asylum seekers, now in the draft stages. Locker cited national security concerns as the reason for the request. Shapira rejected the demand as unnecessary and advised Locker to appeal to the Government Review Committee, which is also authorized to classify documents, if he chose.

The State Comptroller’s Office has rejected many of the PMO’s responses to claims raised in the draft report, which was submitted to the PMO some weeks ago.

The report is slated for inclusion in the state comptroller’s annual report, published in early May. Sources who have seen the draft, speaking to Haaretz on condition of anonymity, said its conclusions are harsh and have nothing to do with state security, and Locker’s request was an attempt to silence people.

The clause in the law that allows for classification of State Comptroller’s Office reports is very rarely used. The most recent and exceptional example is the critical report on excavations on the Temple Mount. The report was banned from publication in Israel for fear of harming foreign relations and of violent outbreaks in the area of the compound.

Haaretz learned that the report complains of a lack of policy and of long-term thinking with regard to asylum seekers living in Israel. It also rejects the claim that the Holot facility in the Negev (called an open detention facility) will solve the problems caused by the presence of 50,000 asylum seekers in Israel. He blames Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in this context.

Haaretz has also learned that in the report’s recommendations chapter, responsibility for dealing with the issue will be laid at the door of the PMO.