Israeli Cabinet Approves Resumption of Work on New West Bank Settlement

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Heavy machinery working at the site designated for the new settlement, Amichai, June 2017.
Heavy machinery working at the site designated for the new settlement, Amichai, June 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved the allocation of 55 million shekels ($15.3 million) to the Interior Ministry for the completion of infrastructure work on Amichai, a new West Bank settlement for former residents of the unauthorized outpost of Amona, which was evacuated in February.

Amichai is being built in the central West Bank, north of Ramallah near the settlements of Eli and Shiloh.

Work at the site was suspended in July after the Construction and Housing Ministry said it needed more funds to continue work.

Although the Prime Minister’s Office has been pressing the Finance Ministry for more money to build Amichai, the funds that were approved Sunday were part of the existing budget for the community rather than an additional allocation.

The cabinet’s decision allows the treasury to transfer 55 million shekels to the Interior Ministry, the lion’s share of the 60 million shekels that the cabinet allocated for the establishment of roads as well as electricity, sewage and water systems for Amichai.

The Housing Ministry’s insistence that double this amount was needed led to the suspension of work in July.

Sunday’s cabinet resolution noted that the commitment to transfer the money for the completion of the infrastructure work “depends among other things on court verdicts,” because “legal proceedings are now before the court against the construction of the new settlement, including the infrastructure work.”

The resolution stated that the cabinet “notes the commitment of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council to complete all the required work ... based on the receipt of assistance that will not exceed said funding.”

At least 160 million shekels were earmarked for the evacuation of Amona. This includes 60 million shekels to build Amichai, 40 million shekels for compensation to evacuees — including nine families who were previously evacuated from illegally built homes near Ofra — tens of millions of shekels for the evacuation operation and the cost of temporary housing for evacuees.

Last month Haaretz reported that following the Housing Ministry’s request for more funds, the Prime Minister’s Office had asked the Finance Ministry for another 30 million to 70 million shekels for the community’s construction. Sources familiar with the details said such an allocation would breach budget limits and that the additional funds aren’t likely to be approved.

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