Every Settler a King

Ron Nahman, mayor of Ariel, does not appreciate the criticism being voiced in recent weeks against the sizable benefits and investments being made in the territories, at the expense of residents of Acre, Hadera and Ofakim.

Ron Nahman, the mayor of Ariel, does not appreciate the criticism being voiced in recent weeks against the sizable benefits and tremendous investments being made in the territories, at the expense of residents of Acre, Hadera and Ofakim. He is so mad that he has threatened to "appeal to the legal system" unless the detractors withdraw their accusations. "There is a limit to incitement and slander," he says.

This week, the Budget Analysis Project at the Adva Center completed a study on a subject that is of great interest to Nahman: "Governmental Allocations to Israeli Settlements in the Territories in the 1990's."

At the outset, it should be noted that the Adva Center's study, which was coordinated by Dr. Shlomo Swirski, does not incorporate all of the government's investment in the territories. It does not take into account, for instance, the Defense Ministry funds that are devoted to building bypass roads; it does not consider budgets from the Housing and Construction Ministry that go toward providing extensive aid for purchasing apartments in the territories; and it does not refer to the special benefits granted by various government ministries to residents of the territories, or the tax breaks these residents receive. The study only covers three areas: municipal budgets, construction and the paving of roads.

l Municipal budgets: Israeli governments are inclined to periodically issue gala proclamations concerning their intentions to implement a preferential policy with regard to the development towns. Sometimes (on the eve of elections), they also talk about adopting an affirmative action policy toward the Arab settlements. But what is really happening out in the field?

The Adva Center's study shows that during the previous decade, the settlements in the territories were afforded a regular annual state budget of NIS 3,679 per capita, while the budget allotted to residents of development towns was NIS 2,308, and to residents of Arab towns and villages only NIS 1,720 - in other words, an clear preference for the territories.

Reviewing the figures relating to the per-capita municipal income through the development budget produces a similar picture. Settlements in the territories received NIS 2,315 per capita, while development towns received NIS 1,127 and Arab settlements only NIS 1,045. Here, as well, the policy of discrimination was manifest.

l Residential construction: During the 1990s, construction in the territories was closely linked to political policies. During the period 1990-1991, under the government of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, construction in the territories increased fourfold. With the change of government in 1992, construction activities declined sharply. In 1997, when Benjamin Netanyahu took hold of the reins of power, construction in the territories increased once again.

All told, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip saw 32,560 residential building starts during the 1990s, at an overall investment of NIS 11.5 billion. Government budgets financed 50 percent of the total investment, at a time when inside the Green Line, the state was financing only 25 percent of public housing investments.

The rate of public construction in the territories was 63 percent higher than the parallel rate within the Green Line - and all this while the government was speaking (after September 1993) of a "freeze" on the expansion of the settlements that restricted new construction to "natural population growth."

l Construction of public buildings: During the 1990s, the population in the West Bank constituted approximately 2.5 percent of the total population of Israel, yet it emerges from the Adva study that 3.8 percent of all new public buildings were constructed during the period in question in the territories, and of the structures erected at the public's initiative, 4.3 percent were built in the settlements. The trend is obvious.

l The paving of roads: The Adva Center data points to the fact that during the past decade, road-building within the Green Line was influenced by the country's economic situation; while in the territories, the story was entirely political. In the 1990s, the settlements in the territories benefited from a surplus investment in this field, receiving a total of 17.2 square meters of newly-paved roads per capita. The national average inside the Green Line was only 5.3 square meters per capita.

We see the results with our own eyes every morning. The condition of the roads within the Green Line is terrible; there is no money for building interchanges; and there is no budget for a fast train to Be'er Sheva.

An incredible tunneling operation is now underway below Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. A huge four-lane tunnel is being built to serve residents of Ma'aleh Adumim. No such tunnel or anything like it exists within the Green Line. And another example: The state built two massive tunnels and a bridge, the likes of which one sees only in Switzerland, for the Etzion Bloc residents, who number no more than a few thousand. However, when it comes to the Glilot intersection, the busiest in Israel, there is no money for the construction of a short bridge that would finally extricate drivers from "the nation's traffic jam."