Knesset Panel Clears Another $10m to Compensate Settlers for '09 Building Freeze

‘I can’t remember the last time somebody received huge amounts of taxpayer money because housing units weren’t built in that person’s residential area,’ an opposition MK says.

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The Knesset Finance Committee on Wednesday authorized a transfer of NIS 36 million ($10.2 million) to local councils in the West Bank as compensation for the 2009 construction freeze.

For nine months that year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a freeze on all construction in the West Bank as a confidence-building measure in relations with the Palestinian Authority. The local councils received compensation payments of NIS 36 million in 2010, NIS 40 million in 2011 and NIS36 million in 2012, totaling NIS 148 million for 2010-2013.

MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) asked why the compensation was not included in the basic budget, how the money was being distributed, and whether any further transfers were likely. But the Knesset presidium rejected her request to submit an urgent query to Finance Ministry Yair Lapid on the matter.

“This morning we are witnessing yet another kombina” by Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party, Shaffir said, using a word in Hebrew and other languages meaning improper procedure. “I can’t remember the last time somebody received huge amounts of taxpayer money because housing units weren’t built in that person’s residential area,” she added.

“But in the case of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], this sum has been transferred on a regular basis since 2010 – not in the context of the state budget but in the dark .... Maybe this way the Finance Ministry is making sure the public won’t pay attention to where the money really is going,” Shaffir said, playing on Yesh Atid’s campaign slogan in last January’s general election.

The Finance Ministry, for its part, said the grant was being allocated “in view of the fees and levies of which the local authorities in Judea and Samaria were deprived. This grant has been allocated for a number of years after the adoption of the road map, which limited the activities of the local councils in Judea and Samaria and made all processes related to planning and construction conditional on authorization from the defense minister and the prime minister.”

According to the ministry, the grants were made “after the local authorities presented evidence about the damages they had incurred because of the construction freeze. In the first allocation of the grant, the local authorities pledged to waive any claims against the state for these damages.”

The settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim. Credit: AP

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