Haaretz has learned that Yoav Horowitz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau chief, has asked for additional funding amounting to tens of millions of shekels for the establishment of the new settlement of Amichai, intended for evacuees from the illegal Amona outpost.
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This request, which came at a meeting of representatives from several ministries, follows a standstill in construction of the new settlement in an area called the Shiloh valley, in the central West Bank. The treasury says it has not received new guidelines.
The project has run into difficulties due to an underestimation of the costs of building the necessary infrastructure. So far, the Prime Minister’s Office has urged the local council to stick to the budget it requested for building the new settlement. Thus, no other ministry has allocated further funds to cover the gap. In any case the work cannot proceed since construction plans have not been approved beyond the infrastructure stage.
Apparently, Horowitz asked the Finance Ministry to add between 30 and 70 million shekels ($8.4-19.5 million) to the project to cover the shortfall in funds. It is not known if this money has already been transferred and if construction has resumed. One source says that only one piece of heavy equipment is working at the site, since its budget was paid in advance. Other pieces are standing idle. The treasury says that it is still operating under the original cabinet guidelines since it has not received new ones.
The establishment of the new settlement has been challenged at the High Court of Justice in two petitions. In the first one, Palestinians claim that the intended area is farmed, suggesting that it is private land. The other petition argues that the new settlement will create enclaves on officially recognized private land, which may not be accessible once the settlement is built.