Israeli Cabinet Expected to Approve Renewing Work on New West Bank Settlement

Work on home for Amona evacuees had been halted over budget dispute

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Construction of the new West Bank settlement of Amichai on June 20, 2017.
Construction of the new West Bank settlement of Amichai on June 20, 2017.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

The cabinet will debate on Sunday the renewal of work on a new West Bank settlement for former residents of the unauthorized outpost of Amona, who were evacuated in February.

The cabinet is expected to approve an allocation to the Interior Ministry for infrastructure work on Amichai, adjacent to the central West Bank settlement of Shiloh. The work was suspended in July after the Construction and Housing Ministry said it needed a cash injection to continue the job. According to officials familiar with the details, the Prime Minister’s Office had been pressuring the Finance Ministry to approve the additional funds. However, the proposal to be discussed on Sunday makes no mention of additional funding for the project. Most of the money already set aside will be given to the Interior Ministry, which will be responsible for building the settlement instead of the Construction and Housing Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

According to the proposal, the Finance Ministry will transfer to the Interior Ministry an additional budget of 55 million shekels ($15.4 million) on the basis of a previous cabinet resolution assigning 60 million shekels to the Interior Ministry for infrastructure work in Amichai.

The proposal says the line item was approved before Amona’s evacuation and was earmarked for the establishment of roads as well as electricity, sewage and water systems. The work was stopped after the Construction and Housing Ministry asked for double that amount for the project, which led to delays in transferring the money between the ministries.

The proposal also stated that the commitment to transfer the money for the completion of the infrastructure work “depends among other things on court verdicts,” because “legal proceedings are now before the court against the construction of the new settlement, including the infrastructure work.”

The proposal states that the cabinet “notes the commitment of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council to complete all the required work ... based on the receipt of assistance that will not exceed said funding.”

The Defense Ministry and the Finance Ministry are reportedly in favor of the proposal, while the Construction Ministry has not stated its position.

At least 160 million shekels were earmarked for the evacuation of Amona. This includes 60 million shekels to build Amichai, 40 million shekels for compensation to evacuees — including nine families who were previously evacuated from illegally built homes near Ofra — tens of millions of shekels for the evacuation operation and the cost of temporary housing for evacuees. To this amount, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office had wanted to add tens of millions of shekels more, on the recommendation of the Construction and Housing Ministry.

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