Today - a few days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas a sign of Palestinian refusal of the peace process - the Ministerial Committee for Legislation will discuss another project showing Israel's addiction to the settlement drug.
Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin and his Likud colleague Zion Pinyan have proposed an amendment to the law governing tax breaks on contributions to foster the growth of communities. Donors will be able to deduct 35 percent of their contribution. Thus the state's tax exemption to institutions that promote public goals will be expanded to include organizations that promote the settlements.
The initiators of the legislation say the amendment has a "negligible" significance on the budget. But its political significance cannot be overstated.
The proposed amendment, like declaring the settlements a preferred development area and promoting the legalization of outposts, is a crude breach of Israel's international obligations. Ariel Sharon's government, in which Netanyahu served as finance minister, pledged in 2004 to U.S. President George W. Bush to stop allocating resources to encourage settlement in the occupied territories. This move was designed to stop creating hasty facts on the ground that would make it difficult to implement a two-state solution.
Elkin and Pinyan say the tax break for contributions is intended to bring progress to communities throughout the country and strengthen "Zionist values." Hopefully the cabinet is aware of the contradiction between Zionist values on the one hand and fostering settlements and erasing the Green Line on the other. The de facto annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermine Israel's Jewish and democratic character and threaten to leave it with a choice between a binational state and a pariah apartheid state.
The day after his victory over Likud's extremist wing, headed by Moshe Feiglin, Netanyahu boasted that the party's members had shown their faith in his policies. The initiative to encourage the settlements and defend the outposts, like the moves to dodge diplomatic negotiations, make it hard to spot the difference.
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