Right-wing NGO Exposes Extent of Israel's Support of West Bank Settlements

In bi-annual survey, Mattot Arim ranks Knesset members, ministers, according to number of bills, lobbying they advanced to better lives of West Bank residents.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

An interesting document has recently found its way to several right-wing members of Knesset. Produced by the rightist NGO Mattot Arim, the survey rates MKs and cabinet ministers according to the aid they provided to the settlement movement and to the "national camp" as a whole.

The report encourages and compliments those who garnered especially high scores, with survey authors saying the report was a tool to reward those "elected officials who truly represent their public."

A building site in the settlement of Ariel last year. 277 new homes were approved in the town.Credit: Moti Milrod

Published every six months, for the fourth year running the Mattot Arim report breaks down the legislative, lobbying, and media activity of the MKs – from bills preventing the boycott of products made in the settlements, to media interviews.

In addition, ministers are lauded for harnessing their ministries for pro-settlement development, such as improving the internet and cellular networks in the West Bank.

In the introduction to the report, the authors say that the "Mattot Arim movement noticed a few years ago that Knesset members of the national camp were not serving their voters well," adding that "some of the ministers and members of Knesset used to 'rest' for most of their term, waking into action – at best – only near election time, after they had squandered 75 percent of their/our term."

This latest survey covered the period between January and June 2011, listing 100 parliamentary achievements attributed to the various MKs, and revealed the often unpublicized activities taking place on the ground to advance West Bank settlements and the rightist patina of the 18th Knesset.

In one example, the report noted that the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved the transfer of NIS 10 million to emergency services in the West Bank. The Knesset's Finance Committee also approved NIS 2 million to improve cellphone reception.

Moreover, guns laws were amended in a way that makes it easier to acquire weapons for self defense.

In addition, the report cites the activity of government ministries to cancel out radio interference originating from the Palestinian Authority and the erection of permanent transmission sites for regional radio stations. Digital television transmission was also improved.

More than half of the settlements were plugged into Bezeq's advanced internet networks, and the Israel Postal Company launched new gun-proof delivery vehicles which would allow for regular service to threatened settlements.

The report did not include bills which did not pass in the Knesset, only those that were either approved as laws or that are relatively advanced in the legislative process.

Speaking with Haaretz, Mattot Arim Spokesperson Susie Dym said the report was not distributed to the media because it was not "meant for the readers of Haaretz or any other media outlets, but for our activists."

The organization, which was formed in 1992 as soon as initial contacts ahead of the Oslo Accords were made public, provides information to right-wing activists who don't necessarily live in the West Bank.

The "top ten" MKs in terms of "activity of a national character" were (number in parenthesis indicates number of "national" activities):

1. Uri Ariel (National Union, 46)
2. Zeev Elkin (Likud, 34)
3. Yariv Levin (Likud, 27)
4. Aryeh Eldad (National Union, 24)
5. Moshe Ya'alon (Likud, 18)
6. Danny Danon (Likud, 15)
7. Moshe Kahlon (Likud 14)
8. Michael Ben-Ari (National Union, 13)
9. Benny Begin (Likud, 13)
10. Tzipi Hotovely (Likud, 13)

The list also holds some surprises: One of the most prominent advancers of right-wing legislation, Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Yisrael Beiteinu's David Rotem, is responsible for only 10 "national" activities; Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who recently criticized some of the more controversial bills, is reported to be responsible for 9 such activities; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is linked to just 5; while Likud stalwart Michael Eitan gets a zero.

Twenty-one MKs, including six ministers, were mentioned for their part in improving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before U.S. Congress; Lieberman is noted for leading an effort to "dampen the attitude of leading countries toward the Palestinian bid for statehood."

National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz led the list of ministers who pressed to boycott Israeli suppliers linked to the construction of the new Palestinian city Rawabi.

The report stated that the ministers instructed Israel Electric Corporation, Mekorot, the Science and Technology Ministry, and other governmental bodies to sever contacts with Israeli firms who boycotted settlement products.

This list also includes several Kadima MKs, such as Yoel Hasson, Roni Bar-On, and Nachman Shai.

Another area mentioned in the report is the issue of Israeli Arabs, in which Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan is noted for tearing down illegal and polluting factories in the Wadi Ara area.

According to several parliamentary aides, Mattot Arim persistently contacts the MKs, asking for regular reports of their work in these fields.

"I regularly provide information upon their request," said an aide to one MK mentioned in the report, saying: "It's important for us that our public knows about the action undertaken here and how active we are on these issues."

However, another aide said to a different MK that his team had "decided not to cooperate with this report. It's not that important as far as we're concerned, and requires too much work, as indicated in the low score we received in the current report."



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