Opinion

Settlements Are Not the Periphery

Wait a second; the settlements and the periphery will share the same slice of the budgetary pie? That’s where I started to get suspicious

Aerial photo of West Bank showing Jewish settlements to the right of the separation wall and Palestinian homes to the left.
Lefteris Pitarakis /AP

One of Israel’s big lies is its support for what is known as “the periphery,” the country’s outlying areas. It’s been said that while these outlying areas make do with “We embrace the residents of the north/south” whenever missiles are falling, the settlements know that government love is demonstrated with money – a lot of it.

The recommendations of the committee that Culture Minister Miri Regev set up to examine the foundations that support Israeli cinema have already, as expected, drawn cries of pain from the left and schadenfreude from the right. One of the main recommendations was to divide half of the cinema budget between three new foundations to be set up – one for the Galilee, one for the Negev, and one for Judea and Samaria. Wait a second; the settlements and the periphery will share the same slice of the budgetary pie? That’s where I started to get suspicious.

The settlements are not and have never been the periphery, socially or geographically. Unlike the development towns or the communities of immigrants that were scattered in remote areas, most settlement residents moved in of their own accord. No one dumped them out of trucks there in the middle of the night; no one lied to them about the risks in those places; no government made decisions over their heads about where they should live. The settlements were the settlers’ idea. The government’s readiness to serve them as both their donkey and their ATM came later.

The government has deemed the settlements priority communities with priority populations. Every shekel going to the settlements is stolen from the periphery. The settler mainstream hasn’t been that parkas-and-sandals wearing gang from the 70s for a long time; its representatives now sport suits, sit in the government and feed from the public trough. Naturally the money doesn’t go directly into anyone’s pocket, but to everything around it – roads, infrastructure, a community center, nice jobs in the local council, transportation – and I haven’t even said a word yet about the security costs or the compensation settlements were granted for the construction freeze.

When will the right-wing government compensate the residents of the Negev and the Galilee for 40 years of empty promises to build industrial zones, improve transportation and strengthen the educational system? When will Kiryat Shmona, for example, get 50 million shekels ($13.9 million) for the fact that Ariel College was turned into a university, and not Tel Hai College?

In the case of the film foundations, the waving of the periphery flag is also meant to whitewash settlement funding. That’s how it was in the case of government aid to rehabilitate the periphery after Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The Binyamin, Samaria and Har Hebron regional councils received some 29 million shekels, 18 million shekels and 11 million shekels, respectively. Meanwhile the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, which borders on Gaza, got only 400,000 shekels.

Culture Minister Miri Regev
Emil salman

Any resident of the periphery who votes for Likud or its satellite parties is perpetuating someone else being made a priority, just as it was in the days of Mapai. Why?

Too many times have I heard slogans like, “Thanks to the settlements, Tel Aviv can sleep peacefully.” One would think we’re talking about a noble volunteer project, not a dangerous and failed enterprise that exists only because of heavy military security and artificial respiration at our expense. Even its most ardent admirers do not dare to estimate the number of settlers at more than 800,000 people, only 10 percent of Israel’s population. That’s it. But they have a healthy appetite. When will the periphery rise up and demand a separation – a budgetary one at least – from this Siamese twin imposed on them?