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A minor comment, well hidden in the bowels of the State Comptroller's Report issued last week, explains the secret of the success of the settlements' budgetary rampage.

In the chapter in which the comptroller describes at length the illegal building in the territories, he quotes the response of the regional councils of Matte Binyamin and Gush Etzion and of the Beit El local council. They explain that, "according to Jordanian law, a building permit can also be requested at a later stage" - in other words, there is no need to ask for the permit before building, and hence the law has not been breached. The comptroller, of course, rejects this contention, stating, "This is not a fitting reply for a governing authority."

But that's not the main thing; or, not only that. The basic anomaly lies in the very fact of the invoking of a Jordanian law of 1966 as a primary judicial source concerning planning and building in the West Bank.

In fact, we have to think in terms of two Jewish states, one within the Green Line, living according to Israeli law, and the other across that line, relying on Jordanian law. The one is not entitled to depart from the laws of the state, the other can draw on whichever legal system it finds fit: Jordanian, Israeli or military regulations. The one is committed to the banking and mortgage laws that prevail in Israel, the other takes according to Israeli law and gives back according to Jordanian law, or according to no law at all.

The gap between the two Jewish nation-states is quite clear from the other data scattered in the report. This refers not only to the amount of money that has been invested in the settlements, but to the method. A small table on page 313 shows that from 2000-2002 there was a disparity of 553 percent between the Housing Ministry's per capita investment in communities inside the Green Line and in communities possessing an identical socioeconomic level in the territories. Converted into shekels, this means the Housing Ministry's assistance to a Jewish resident in the territories totaled NIS 4,585, as opposed to NIS 702 inside the Green Line, in areas that are classified as having the highest national priority.

The illegal building, the unsupervised investments, the lack of transparency, the exercises in evading proper repayment of mortgages - the comptroller's report is studded with such descriptions - indicate the scale of the failure, the negligence, the neglect and the winking policy of the Housing Ministry with regard to the settlements. In a word, to corruption. However, this is not the case concerning the huge gap between the scale of investment in the territories and inside the Green Line.

The difference in per capita investment bears long-term ideological significance that can't be explained solely by the intention to compensate Israelis living in high-risk areas, or to encourage migration to the territories in order to create political facts. It involves the creation of a different Jewish identity - and hence a different culture - from the one that exists in Israel. Underlying this identity is a concept of territories Jewry as an elite that deserves the best and for which the whole existence of the State of Israel is no more than a feed-line. The state comptroller is justifiably worried about the level of transparency in the decision making. To his chagrin, he is unable to be critical of the nature of the decisions. In the matter of the settlements, his status resembles that of a Jordanian comptroller who would want to investigate whether the settlements are implementing properly the Jordanian planning law from which they draw their existence. The comptroller seeks to, almost begs to, apply Israeli criteria to a population that from the outset established its foundations on divine law.

The comptroller's report, which demarcates the boundaries of the settlement culture, is therefore the most "scientific" explanation of the failure of the disengagement plan in the Likud referendum. The settlers' success is mistakenly attributed to the request to show "compassion for their home." The truth is that the members of the Likud would not likely cry out in protest if, say, the foundering Negev town of Mitzpeh Ramon were to be evacuated for economic reasons. The settlers' success stems from the fact that they were able to persuade others that it's wrong to uproot a "cultural implantation" from its soil and move it to an unknown place called the State of Israel. A place where the difference between them and the riffraff will disappear.