Settlement Housing Gets Third of Israeli State Funds for ‘National Priority’ Areas

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Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. Credit: Eyal Toueg

Nearly a third of the state’s budget for subsidizing housing units has been transferred to the territories since Uri Ariel became housing and construction minister two years ago. Also, according to statistics released by the ministry and analyzed by Haaretz, 28 percent of the housing units subsidized by its rural affairs administration over the past four years were built in the settlements — even though the settlements comprise only 10 percent of the communities on the map of national priority areas.

The Housing and Construction Ministry subsidizes, to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels, infrastructure-development projects for the construction of new housing units in national priority areas. These areas are determined based on a map that the government approved in January 2012 during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s second government. The purpose of the subsidy is “to encourage positive immigration to the communities and to strengthen their economic resilience.”

Haaretz’s analysis of the information that the ministry published about the subsidies provided over the past four years shows the state assisted in the construction of 8,800 housing units, 2,400 of them in the settlements. The total cost of the subsidy for building in the settlements during those years was 184 million shekels ($46.7 million) — 35 percent of the development budgets that were provided.

Many budgets have been diverted to the settlements since Ariel of Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi  took office in March 2013. For example, in 2011 — when a different map of national priority areas was in use — the state did not subsidize the construction of a single housing unit in the territories, compared with 617 inside the Green Line. In 2012, 353 housing units in the territories were budgeted, compared with 1,233 inside Israel’s sovereign borders.

In 2013 budgets were provided for 1,604 housing units in the territories and 2,462 housing units inside Israel and in 2014, money went to 513 housing units in the settlements and 1,916 in Israel. During Ariel’s term, 32 percent of the budget for funding the construction of housing units was transferred to the territories.

The percentage of settlements that received budgets, out of the total number of settlements on the map of national priority areas, is particularly high: 44 of 67 of the settlements that appear on the map — 65 percent — received development budgets. By comparison, only 119 communities of the 580 inside Israel that appear on the map — only 20 percent — received such budgets.

Although the information is made public on the Housing and Construction Ministry’s website, a ministry spokesperson commented that “the statistics are not at all accurate.” Ministry officials said that “the inclusive statistics of the neighborhoods that are in development in the rural communities, where the sale of the housing units has not ended yet, are as follows: 9,205 housing units are being developed in the Galilee, of which 5,353 were put on the market; 6,413 housing units are being developed in the Negev, of which 3,558 were put on the market; and in Judea and Samaria, 1,778 housing units are being developed, of which 517 have been put on sale. That makes 17,396 housing units, of which 1,778 are in Judea and Samaria — ten percent of the total number of housing units that are being developed in rural construction... and 5.48 percent of the total number put on the market.”

The Housing and Construction Ministry officials added: “All the ministry’s actions are carried out in accordance with the law. In addition, all the marketing, development costs and development subsidies appear in a completely transparent and detailed manner on the ministry’s website.”

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