Awards for Settler Law-breakers Must End

It is hard to ignore the distorted message the Israeli government is conveying by awarding generous gifts to Beit El residents who openly trampled the law.

Residents of the Beit El settlement should actually thank the Supreme Court justices that ordered the evacuation in June 2012 of the Ulpana neighborhood, which was built on private Palestinian land.

The partial evacuation carried out by the government following the court ruling – only five of 14 buildings have been evacuated – continues to bear fruit for the Company for the Development of Beit El’s Yeshiva Complex, to which the Ulpana neighborhood belonged. The compensation for the settlers was guaranteed by a “willful evacuation” agreement they signed with Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, promising not to lock themselves in the buildings or engage in any violence.

It turns out that in addition to rent subsidies for those forced out of the neighborhood, permits to build 90 housing units for Beit El Yeshiva staff, a promise to build another 300 housing units in the neighborhood as well as other perks worth millions of shekels, the government (which refuses to disclose details) will fund the construction of four public buildings in the settlement, at a price of 20 million shekels ($5.7 million). (Chaim Levinson, Haaretz, 19.2)

According to instructions handed down by the Prime Minister’s Office, the government will build additional structures in Beit El, including a religious girls’ high school, a local council headquarters and a community center, at a cost of 5 million shekels each.

It is hard to ignore the distorted message the Israeli government is conveying: law abiding citizens residing within the Green Line, suffering from increasing interruptions to public services are not entitled to the perks being heaped on Beit El residents, who themselves crudely trampled Israeli law, and are given special privileges for promising to honor a Supreme Court ruling, and refrain from violence.

This policy places settlers over and above any other citizen, while their consent to follow a Supreme Court agreement – an obligation required of every citizen – is awarded with generous compensation, worth tens of millions of shekels. No other group in Israel enjoys such privileges, the existence of which starkly contradicts the rule of law and democracy.

The government, currently facing boycott threats over its aggressive construction policies in the West Bank, must stop kowtowing to the settlers, and start focusing on the needs of all Israelis.