Israel Seeks to Double Security Budget for Jewish Settlers in East Jerusalem

The $10.3 million addition will bring the total expense for protecting homes of Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem to $24.4 million - or over $7,700 per resident - in 2016.

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A security guard in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, 2015.
A security guard in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman
Zvi Zrahiya
Nir Hasson

The government plans on adding 40 million shekels ($10.3 million) to the sum already allocated for protecting Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. A request to transfer this money was submitted by the Finance Ministry to the Knesset Finance Committee this week.

The ministry requested money transfers totaling 469 million shekels for various purposes.

The 41.5 million shekels’ addition will bring the total expense for protecting East Jerusalem settlers to 94.5 million shekels in 2016, similar to last year. The figure may increase again by the end of the year, as it has in previous years.

The security budget for East Jerusalem comes out of the Housing Ministry and does not include the police troops required to protect 2,500-3,000 Jewish settlers who live in the Palestinian neighborhoods in the east of the city. The bulk of the budget is intended for armed escorts in bullet-proof cars for the settlers of Silwan neighborhood, and escorts on foot for settlers in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and Jewish residents in the East Jerusalem side of the neighborhood of Musrara, near Damascus Gate.

Other parts of the expense are earmarked for protecting the settlers’ compounds in Ir David-Silwan, Mount of Olives, Kidmat Zion and other places.

Until 2013 the East Jerusalem security budget was about 55 million shekels a year. In 2014, following a wave of violence in Jerusalem, the sum was increased to 101 million shekels. The Housing Ministry said at the time this was a one-time increase for installing cameras and security systems and the budget dropped in the following years.

In 2015 the sum rose to 94 million. The budget increase reflects the sharp rise in violence in East Jerusalem, which is largely directed at the Jewish settlers’ homes and cars, as well as the increase in the number of settlers living there.

According to the Finance Ministry, the protection of each Jewish resident in East Jerusalem costs more than 30,000 shekels.

The Finance Committee is due to discuss the transfers next week. Some of the requests stem from coalition agreements Likud made with the ultra-Orthodox parties and Habayit Hayehudi. They are earmarked for ultra-Orthodox institutions and schools and for subsidizing public transportation.

Meanwhile, following Shas leader and Interior Minister Arye Dery’s request, 650 million shekels will be allocated to the Transportation Ministry, to reduce public transportation prices. Also, the state will raise its subsidy to public transportation operators. This sum had been put in reserve when the state budget was drafted until such a time when the agreement with Shas was completed.

Under the agreement with the ultra-Orthodox parties, a 532 million-shekel surplus in the Education Ministry budget will be transferred from 2015 to 2016. This will add 3.3 million shekels to the independent education system associated with United Torah Judaism budget, bringing it to 1.7 billion. It will also add 1.5 million to religious institutions, bringing their budget up to 1.07 billion shekels.

The 469 million shekels requested by the Finance Ministry in transfers is to be covered by budgetary cutbacks in various ministries.

In addition to the 41.5 million shekels for protecting East Jerusalem settlers, transfers include 15 million shekels in grants to young settlements in the West Bank, 40 million shekels for schools in the Galilee and Negev, 39 million shekels for the communities along the Gaza border and 30 million shekels for poor people. The ministry said these allocations were decided on after the Knesset had approved the 2016 budget, so they will require a budget change.

The Finance Ministry suggests transferring 29 million shekels from the reserve to the Religious Affairs Ministry, 12 million shekels of which will go to the ministry’s activity at the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai at Mount Meron.

The treasury also suggests transferring 5.8 million shekels to the Negev, Galilee and Periphery Development Ministry, headed by Dery. A sum of 1 million shekels will be allocated to hire three workers and two students in the ministry and 850,000 shekels will go to changing the ministry’s name from the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry and Dery’s move from the Economy Ministry to the Interior Ministry.