Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he will speak at the right-wing rally scheduled for Sunday night in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Israeli local authorities in the West Bank are helping to fund the rally, including by subsidizing bus transport for residents of settlements in their jurisdiction.
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The Binyamin, Har Hebron and Gush Etzion regional councils are among the participating local governments, which signed ads urging residents to attend.
“We must do something,” Har Hebron Regional Council head Yohai Damari wrote in a letter to residents, in which he “urge[d] every man and woman to ... vote for parties that view the settlement enterprise as a principle, not a burden, a national mission.” Continuing, Damari said council residents “will join all the national bodies that believe the Land of Israel is the Jewish people’s land and that have no interest in holding discussions about expelling Jews from their land. I urge all council residents to go to the mass rally for the Land of Israel. Buses will leave from the settlements; you can register with the community coordinators.”
The Binyamin Regional Council posted details on its website and urged people to attend, warning that “the fate of our land is in the balance” in Tuesday’s election. The announcement said that despite the flourishing, 40-year history of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, voices “challenging our right to settle our land” are gathering strength. “Therefore, massive attendance at the rally is of unparalleled importance.”
Round-trip bus tickets for the rally will cost residents of the settlements just 20 shekels ($5) per person; the local governments are footing the remainder of the bill.
This funding isn’t illegal. Local governments in the West Bank are entitled to spend part of their budget on demonstrations, as long as the demonstrations are meant to benefit the community and/or its residents, and since Sunday’s rally is also a protest against plans to evacuate settlements, subsidizing it doesn’t violate the law.
Nevertheless, all local governments in the West Bank spend far more than they earn, and rely on state subsidies - including some that are allocated only to the settlements - to make up the difference.