Inside Amona Evacuation Budget: 70 Million Shekels to Build New Settlement

Israel allocates 130 million shekels to cover evacuation of illegal outpost, biggest chunk will go for building settlement near Shvut Rachel. Another 40 million will go toward personal compensation of Amona settlers.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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A man prays in the illegal outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 18, 2016.
A man prays in the illegal outpost of Amona in the West Bank, December 18, 2016.Credit: Baz Ratner, Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The cabinet allocated 130 million shekels ($34 million) on Sunday to cover the costs of evacuating Amona, after residents of the illegal settlement outpost accepted the government’s latest offer for a voluntary evacuation.

The biggest chunk of the money, 70 million shekels, will go to building a new settlement near Shvut Rachel.

Another 40 million shekels will be given to the Binyamin Regional Council, which will use it to pay compensation and offer other assistance to both the families evicted from Amona and nine families due to be evicted from illegally built houses in Ofra.

The cabinet also approved an across-the-board cut in the budgets of all government ministries for 2017-18, in part to cover these costs. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) was the only minister to vote against this.

Under the government’s latest offer, which the cabinet formally approved on Sunday once Amona residents agreed to it, the number of caravans relocated from Amona to a nearby plot will be doubled, from 12 to 24. Altogether, the outpost houses some 40 families.

Young Israeli settlers gather in the settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank, Dec. 9, 2016.Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP

In addition, the government will establish a site in the nearby settlement of Ofra where families evicted from Amona can reside temporarily. That will cost nine million shekels.

Finally, 15 million shekels will be used to renovate public buildings in Ofra, which will absorb the Amona residents, and 3.5 million shekels will go to the Binyamin Regional Council to rent rooms for the Amona families until their new homes are ready.

Aside from the cost of evacuating Amona and building new housing for its residents, the other main reason for the across-the-board cuts in ministry budgets for 2017-18 is the cost of operating a new public broadcasting corporation, in whatever format the government ultimately decides to do so.

The planned settlement near Shvut Rachel stood at the center of a war of words between Israel's Foreign Ministry and the White House in October.

In an unusually harsh statement, Washington said the construction plans constitute a violation of Israel's government to withhold from building additional settlements in the West Bank, adding that this isn't how friends behave. The Foreign Ministry rejected America's criticism, claiming that the construction plans do not constitute the creation of a new settlement.

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