Campaign seasons are always characterized by politicians trying to wink knowingly at potential voters. In parties that hold primaries, which compel the candidates to ingratiate themselves with the voters as much as possible, such winking often includes extremist and even downright irresponsible statements. Nevertheless, the very need to appeal to as many people as possible makes this a time when it's possible to uncover important facts that have long been hidden from the public eye and are now being revealed because of their high electoral value.
Yuval Steinitz provided a worrisome example of this on Monday. The finance minister gave an interview to Galei Israel, a regional radio station that serves the settlements. Knowing that a large audience of potential voters was listening to him, Steinitz announced, "We've doubled the budget for Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. We did this in a low-profile manner, because we didn't want parties either in Israel or abroad to thwart the move."
He then proceeded to boast, "We're funding three cultural centers in Judea and Samaria - in Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Kiryat Arba ... We helped the Jewish community in Hebron. Thanks to my decision to allocate a special budget to establish a university in Ariel, despite the enormous pressure against it from [existing] universities ... the way was paved for its approval by the Council for Higher Education."
These remarks by Steinitz - who on Tuesday, in the settlement of Kedumim, received a "friend of the settlements" award from the Yesha Council of settlements - are incomparably grave. It turns out that hiding behind the title of "finance minister of the State of Israel" was nothing less than the title of "finance minister of Judea and Samaria." Steinitz, in his attempts to woo his electorate, admitted that this government's true policy is the creeping annexation of the territories, and that its method for achieving this is by deceiving the public.
The fact that the finance minister has been going behind the public's back is unforgivable. If the government has decided to support the settlements with massive budgets, it must disclose this to the public in real time and fight for its policy; not do it "in a low-profile manner" - a euphemism for concealment. The fact that only long afterward, as part of an election campaign, did a senior cabinet minister boast of acting like a thief in the night is an insult to Israel's citizens and a disgrace to the government.
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