“Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges, 17:6). Thus, in Biblical language, did the state comptroller, Judge Joseph Shapira, describe the goings-on in settler land.
In the scathing report on the defense establishment that he released on Wednesday, the comptroller found that for years, 83 West Bank settlements haven’t paid leasing fees to the state for the property allocated to them. The financial loss to the state is an estimated NIS 50 million a year, or hundreds of millions of shekels in total.
The comptroller has directed yet another spotlight at the lawlessness and legal anarchy practiced in the settlements and the enormous sums of money they plunder from the state. Shapira described an insufferable state of affairs, in which the Civil Administration systematically shirks its duty to enforce planning and construction laws in the settlements. The administration’s scandalous excuse is that “inspectors are likely to encounter stiff opposition from settlers in the West Bank if they enforce the laws,” the report noted.
In other words, hooliganism and lawbreaking are not only the norm among radical settler groups, like those that perpetrate attacks on Palestinians and peace activists, but also among the settler mainstream. And the hooliganism is directed not only at Palestinians, but at the officials whose job it is to enforce the state’s laws. The authorities in charge of enforcing the law give in to these thugs solely because they are terrified of them.
The state of affairs Shapira described is not new. The social protests of 2011 stayed far away from the huge sums of money the state invests in the settlements, but that was a fatal mistake.
At the time, Yair Lapid, who is now the finance minister, asked, “Where’s the money?” The answer to that question has now been found: Some of it is in the settlements − and not only in the sums the state decided to invest in this lunatic project. The money is also in the settlement enterprise’s black economy, where settlers intimidate the authorities and exempt themselves from paying the taxes every Israeli citizen is required to pay.
The funds the settlers rob from the state are added to the lands they robbed from the Palestinians. This report exposes the settlers’ pretense of being patriotic idealists for what it really is: They are pillaging the state coffers − no less. Even people who support the settlements, including many cabinet members, cannot allow this abandonment of the law and governmental authority to continue.
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