Government Ministers Star in Scathing UN Settlement Report

While conservative columnists were quick to blame human rights groups for a damning report issued by the UN Human Rights Council, statements by Israel's finance minister and other senior officials provided more than enough of a basis for its conclusions.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

After the damning report on the settlements was issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council investigative committee last week, a series of right-wing pundits blamed Israeli human rights groups for its content. These groups had either dared to appear before the committee, or provided data on which the committee based its conclusions.

Right-wing columnists like Dror Eydar, writing in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's mouthpiece Israel Hayom, or conservatives like Ben-Dror Yemini in Maariv, rushed to check the footnotes of the report so they could identify who had collaborated with the enemy. Naturally, they did not forget to also finger Haaretz as one of the main culprits responsible for the harsh report.

They are not the first - the prime minister himself has already called this newspaper one of Israel's worst enemies.

But if they had bothered to read the entire report and not just the footnotes, they would have discovered that the report's top stars were actually Israeli government ministers.

One of them, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, is widely quoted in the UN report. To illustrate the overt and covert methods the government would use to transfer funds for developing and expanding the settlements, the report quotes from an interview that Steinitz gave to Israeli Army Radio this past November.

"On 14 November 2012, the Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, said, "we've doubled the budget for Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. We did this in a low-profile manner, because we didn't want parties either in Israel or abroad to thwart the move."

A few days ago I wrote that this report by the UN investigative committee on the settlements was "the bigger and more dangerous brother of the Goldstone Report," which dealt with Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. After I saw Steinitz's words featuring prominently in the report on the settlements, I recalled that Interior Minister Eli Yishai had similarly starred in the Goldstone Report.

During Cast Lead, Yishai had said, "It [should be] possible to destroy Gaza, so they will understand not to mess with us. It is a great opportunity to demolish thousands of houses of all the terrorists, so they will think twice before they launch rockets."

The South African judge, who concluded that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, used Yishai's remarks, among others, to support the argument that Israel had acted knowingly and willfully to harm innocent civilians in Gaza.

Then-Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, who had objected to Israel's boycott of the Goldstone Committee, called Yishai's remarks "chatter" and said they are part of the "spin culture" that in the end undermines Israel. His words were correct then, and they are even more correct today.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz: "We've doubled the budget for Judea and Samaria."Credit: Bloomberg
An Israeli soldier points during clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians protesting against settlement expansion, in the West Bank village of Burin, February 2, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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