Israel Allots $9.5 Million to Build New Settlement for Evacuees of Illegal Outposts

The money is earmarked to pay contractors for work already completed, Finance Ministry says

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The West Bank settlement of Amichai, August, 2018.
The West Bank settlement of Amichai, August, 2018.Credit: Emil Salman
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

The Knesset Finance Committee approved the transfer Sunday of 35 million shekels ($9.5 million) for the construction of new housing sites for evacuees from the illegal outposts of Amona and Netiv Ha’avot.

The sites in question already exist and people have moved into some of them, after tens of millions of shekels were already spent on their construction. According to the Finance Ministry the money is earmarked to pay contractors for work already done.

>> West Bank Council Gave $10m to Group That Sets Up Illegal Outposts

The approximately 40 families evacuated from Amona have been living temporarily in the settlement of Ofra, mostly in the field school there. While they were living there, a new settlement, Amichai, near Shiloh in the heart of the West Bank, was built for them. The settlers have been living there for a few weeks now, and the intention is to expand the settlement to take in more families in the near future. The jurisdiction of the settlement is to be expanded in the direction of the illegal outpost of Adei Ad, to legalize the latter as a neighborhood of Amichai, as Haaretz reported last week.

The approximately 15 families evacuated from Netiv Ha’avot moved directly from their houses in that outpost, which is a kind of neighborhood of Amichai, to temporary homes near their homes that were demolished. The intention is to rebuild the outpost close by in a place that does not include the private Palestinian lands on which the demolished homes were built.

The two outposts were illegally built on Palestinian land without permits and against the government’s official policy. They were evacuated on instruction of the High Court of Justice in light of Palestinian petitions against the Civil Administration’s failure to enforce demolition orders. In both cases the settlers, who knowingly broke the law in building the homes, were compensated with tens of millions of shekels in public money. The reason for the transfer of the funding approved on Sunday to build homes in these cases is unclear, since the homes are already standing.

All in all, approximately 20 million shekels ($5.4 million) were transferred to the Amona evacuees and 15 million shekels to the Netiv Ha’avot evacuees.

Israel's Amichai settlement, 2017. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

In both cases, the request for transfer of the further funding given last by the Finance Ministry to the Knesset Finance Committee stated that “the budgetary change is required at this time in light of the fact that the government decision was made after the Budget Law was passed.”

The Knesset Finance Committee also approved 2 million shekels for the local governing committee of the Jewish settlement in Hebron. The request states that the money was to be transferred “in accordance with an agreement in the past with MK Bezalel Smotrich,” (Habayit Hayehudi) and that the transfer was being made, “after the necessary professional and legal checks."

However, in July, the High Court instructed the state to explain why it had not abolished the establishment of the special local committee, and issued a restraining order on the matter.

“The government is continuing to transfer tens of billions of shekels to settlers who stole private lands,” MK Mossi Raz (Meretz), a member of the Finance Committee, said. “It turns out that not only the government has changed the law from 'Thou shalt not steal,' to 'Steal from Arabs,' it also rewards them generously at our expense.”

The Finance Ministry responded that the money was to pay contractors for work already carried out at these two sites.

The settlement of Amichai, built for the Amona evacuees, is the first legally constructed settlement since the 1990s. During this time, illegal outposts were retroactively legalized and new illegal outposts were built. The entire settlement of Amichai was built by the state and its homes were given to the settlers of Amona at no cost as compensation for their previous homes.

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