Lift the Veil on West Bank Outpost Funding

Finance Ministry must demand that state funds illegally funneled to West Bank outposts be returned.

It’s hard not to be amazed with how easily Israeli taxpayers acquiesce to the public funding of maintenance, development and security for the illegal settlement outposts. It’s even harder not to revolt in light of the inventions that budget planners come up with in order to provide a financing network for those outposts - a practice which can only be described as fraud.

On Sunday, Chaim Levinson exposed in Haaretz the methods used by the Binyamin Regional Council, the largest of the regional councils in the West Bank, which transferred tens of millions of shekels during the years 2008-2012 to the illegal outposts in its jurisdiction, and even outside of it.

Former Attorney General Menachem Mazuz signed orders during his term that ban government bodies from financing illegal West Bank construction; but it seems these only encourage the creative spirit of the criminals. In order to evade the ban, a cooperative association was set up to manage the outpost. The regional council transferred the funds to the cooperative using it as an intermediary so that no direct transfer to the outpost would be listed.

This funneling of funds, which undermines the law, created, of course, a deficit in the regional council’s budget. But worry not - the government covered this deficit using funds set aside by the Interior Ministry for local authorities. This is how the distorted, improper and illegal circuit of funding was completed - hidden from inspection.

The Binyamin Regional Council is just one example for the accepted practice created years ago, when tax deductible donations from U.S. Jewish organizations were earmarked for settling Jews within the Green Line but after passing through the twisted tendrils of the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division were allocated to the West Bank settlements. It is not just the Binyamin Regional Council and its siblings that violated the law. The loophole created by the government and its looking the other way when the law was broken, when it knew a crime is taking place hidden from the public view, have institutionalized the fraud and granted it legitimacy.

The fact that government funding has nourished the illegal outposts - with the knowledge of the Prime Minister and ministers - exposes how hollow the declaration of determination to act against them are. It also strengthens the claims of the settlers that the government not only sent them to live in these outposts, but also funds them.

The Finance Ministry, which is concerned about every expense, and even more so about illegal spending, is required to put up a firm barrier against the improper use of taxpayers’ money. The Finance Ministry must demand the return of the money which was transferred illegally, and mostly it must lift the veil that shrouds the cost of the settlements and outposts.