Israel to Allocate $35m to World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division

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The West Bank settlement of Efrat is seen on September 1, 2014. Credit: AFP

The cabinet approved a proposal Wednesday to allocate 130 million shekels ($34.7 million) to the World Zionist Organization’s settlement division for the purposes of “developing agricultural and rural settlement,” even though the proposal does not detail how the money would be divided among West Bank settlements and Negev and Galilee towns.

Division head Danny Kritzman refused to state where exactly the money would go, but said most of the funds would be allocated to towns near conflict zones.

Two months ago the settlement division was allocated 80 million shekels to help rehabilitate communities bordering the Gaza Strip following Operation Protective Edge this summer, on top of its existing budget of 58 million skekels.

Kritzman said the specific working plan for the funds was nearly finalized, but would not offer any details about it. The plan will be released to the public when final, he said.

The proposal described only vague goals such as expanding rural communities via demographic growth, increasing their employment options and maintaining open spaces.

The funds will become part of the division’s annual budget for 2014. Fund use is to be approved as part of a separate working plan.

The settlement unit works on behalf of Israel’s government to found and assist rural communities, and is fully funded by the state. Under an agreement signed between the state and the World Zionist Organization in 2000, the unit has been working to found and assist communities in the Golan Heights and the West Bank. It used to operate in the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif as well until Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Since 2004, the WZO settlement division has launched operations in the Galilee and Negev as well.

The settlement unit’s budget is a subcategory of the Prime Minister’s Office budget, and the unit is responsible to the PMO. However, its operations are determined based on specific cabinet decisions, some of them initiated by other ministries.

In this case, the budget addition came due to a proposal by Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, who refused to divulge details on how the money would be used.

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