They accounted for just 4.5% of Israel’s population in 2016, but West Bank settlers got outsize government aid for construction, education and budgetary help for their local authorities, a study by the Center for Political Economics released on Sunday found.
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The settlements were the recipients of 10.2% of all residential construction initiated by the government, an increase of more than seven-fold since 2012 when they accounted for just 1.4%, although the rate was down from a historic high of 23.7% in 1998, according to the study, which sought to measure the economic costs of the settlements.
Construction in the West Bank between 1995 and 2016 amounted to 0.6 square meters per capita annually, compared with just 0.17 square meters for all of Israel and the territories combined. All told 36% of all building in the settlements was publicly initiated, meaning it was built on state-owned land with at least some government financing, versus 28.5% in Israel’s Southern District and 23.7% in the Jerusalem District, the study said.
“Our report draws a picture showing that investment in Judea and Samaria hasn’t changed significantly and the gap [between the settlements and the rest of Israel] has even grown. That has to set off a red light for those who are seeking an equitable division of resources between all parts of the country,” said Roby Nathanson, the center’s CEO.
Building in the West Bank is overwhelmingly residential. By the report’s calculations, the housing stock in the settlement has grown 120% since 1998, far exceeding the pace of growth for non-residential construction. The stock of commercial and hotel construction grew 37%, industrial building by 23% and agricultural structures by 6.9%.
“The business and employment activity of Judea and Samaria residents takes place inside the Green Line. Most of the population commutes,” said Nathanson. “The government has built infrastructure to connect them with the center of country. It may also be that the restrictions on [settlement] exports to Europe and labeling products have affected industrial investment in these areas.”
West Bank settlements also received a disproportionate share of government financial support for their local authorities. Local authorities inside the Green Line on average got aid equal to about 30.2% of their annual budgets while West Bank settlements got an average 44.1%.
That amounted to 340 shekels ($97) more per settler than for the average resident of Israel’s Negev region and 740 shekels more than for the average Galilee resident, Most of the extra money came in the form of special grants, the study noted.
Using figures from the Finance Ministry, the center estimated that the average settler was getting double the rest of the country. Haredi settlements in the West Bank, however, got less aid per capita than those predominantly national-religious or secular.
Regarding government aid for public transportation, West Bank settlement received 220 million shekels in 2016, 12.3% of all aid that was disbursed that year. Investment on sewage projects settlements got 10.3% of all aid, although the study noted that costs in the West Bank are higher because settlements are relatively small and dispersed.
In education, settlement schools got an extra 536.9 million shekels last year than schools inside the Green Line after taking into account that characteristics of the two populations (schools in West Bank settlements are overwhelmingly ultra-Orthodox and religious, and get more assistance nationwide on that basis).
On a per capita basis, the extra spending worked out to 4,191 shekels per student last year, up from 3.684 in 2015.