In recent years, Israel has spent at least an extra NIS 2.5 billion annually in non-military outlays to maintain its hold on the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and has expended at least NIS 45 billion on the settlements since 1967, according to a Haaretz report that will appear in the Rosh Hashana supplement on Friday. Such civilian spending translates into annual surplus costs of more than NIS 10,000 per settler.
The report was compiled by a team of 15 reporters during the past three months who met with dozens of top treasury officials, economic experts and politicians, collected numerous documents, and drew information from the few studies conducted until now regarding details of settlement funding.
The main budget items for this extra spending during the past years include transfers to the local authorities (about NIS 700 million), the Housing Ministry (NIS 440 million, with a 2003 estimate of NIS 500 million), and roads (about NIS 400 million). The cost of income tax benefits provided to settlers was about NIS 130 million, although these benefits were canceled this summer.
The study found that the state invests about NIS 80 million annually on electricity infrastructure, NIS 50 million on water infrastructure, NIS 40 million on industry, and NIS 30 million via the Mifal Hapayis national lottery. At least NIS 100 million annually is spent on education, while another NIS 75 million in extra costs is expended on the health system.
In addition to all these sums, the Interior Ministry transferred to the local authorities two types of special budgets for the settlements: an Oslo grant (about NIS 35 million per year) and an intifada grant (another NIS 35 million). All told, the amount totals about NIS 2.25 billion in annual extra costs.
Two significant budget items whose scope is unknown are land acquisition and allocations for several hundreds of non-profit organizations. The 2003 economic plan led to cutbacks of more than NIS 150 million - although it is still unclear whether they will ultimately be implemented. Therefore, a very conservative calculation of annual extra non-military spending for the settlements in recent years would be NIS 2.5 billion.