Citing Security Concerns, Israel Authorizes Millions in Extra Funding for Settlements

Cabinet approval of $18.6 million as budgetary supplement joins $87.9 million already earmarked for Israeli enclaves in occupied West Bank. Decision is a 'slap in the face' of the international community, senior Palestinian official says.

A laborer stands on an apartment building under construction in a Jewish settlement known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim, October 28, 2014.
Reuters

The Israeli cabinet voted Sunday in favor of a 72 million shekels ($18.6 million) budgetary supplement for West Bank settlements due to their "unique security situation." The addition joins another 340 million shekels ($87.9 million) already allotted to settlements as part of coalition agreements.

The proposal stated that "Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria live in a unique security situation on a daily basis due to their geographic location and fabric of life in the region.

"Since October there has been an escalation in the security situation in Judea and Samaira due to terrorist attacks and other attacks. The security escalation affects various parts of people's lives, including a psychological and social impact, as well as an economic effect on businesses which calls for special responses and services."

The funds for the settlements will come from several budgets. The Interior Ministry will provide 15 million shekels to local councils, another 10 million will come from the Agriculture Ministry to renovate unfinished buildings into permanent structures. The Education, Welfare, Health Ministries and Treasury will forward another 12 million shekels.

The cabinet approved 340 million shekels in Transport Ministry funds for the settlements in August as part of the 2015-2016 state budget.

During the cabinet meeting, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced he was planning to add another 10 million shekels to the original grant for the settlements. This increases the sum of the grant to 82 million shekels.

A senior official who participated in the meeting related that Interior Minister Arye Dery said in the meeting that he examined the state of the municipal councils in the settlements and ensured that the allotted sum is for practical and not political purposes.

Saeb Erekat, the head of the PLO and the chief Palestinian negotiator, slammed the decision, saying it was a "slap in the face of the international community."

"Israel is doing everything possible to sabotage every effort to achieve a just and lasting peace," Erekat said in a statement, the Iranian Press TV reported.

Ahead of the cabinet vote MK Itzik Shmuli of Zionist Union said it was an outrageous decision. "At a time when development town dwellers are marching to Jerusalem because of the government's criminal negligence, tens of millions of shekels are streamed to the settlements." MK Stav Shafir said she was "ashamed for the ministers and lawmakers in the coalition, who talk about the periphery time after time, but when it comes to decision making they rob the periphery of budgets in order to take care of their friends."

Haaretz reported two months ago that Neanyahu and former defense minister Moshe Ya'alon had decided to advance the construction of hundreds of settlement homes. The plan was quietly frozen for about a year, but a decision was recently taken to move the construction forward through the Civil Administration's planning commission.

The Prime Minister's Office denied that report, but aerial photographs have shown new construction under way and approval has been given for plans to build 70 housing units in the settlement of Nokdim.