Following the efforts of NIF grantee the Movement for Freedom of Information, some of the data regarding government expenditures in the West Bank were finally released to the public.
For many years government spending on settlements has been channeled through the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, which is ostensibly a non-government organization and as such would not be subject to the same public oversight as a government agency.
In practice, the Settlements Division acts as the government’s operational branch for construction and infrastructure. It receives enormous budgets intended both for settlements and for construction within the Green Line.
After a Knesset committee indefinitely postponed action on Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s request that the Freedom of Information Law be applied to the Settlement Division, the Movement for Freedom of Information sought information from the government ministries that fund the Settlement Division.
The numbers paint a picture of unequal resource distribution, with most of the funds going to the settlements in the occupied territories and not to the Negev or the Galilee. There was also significant overspending.
More work has to be done, however, to ensure full transparency of settlement funding.
Alona Vinograd, the executive director of the Movement for Freedom of Information, said: “We are in the middle of a struggle and not at the end of it… not all of the ministries which finance settlements delivered information, and on that we shall continue to struggle.”
Vinograd also slammed the Knesset’s failure to act on Livni’s proposal: “It seems that the committee wishes to do everything it can not to hold a proper hearing about requiring the Settlement Division to act with transparency and issue reports. It is unfortunate that this is how things are being done. At no point was any logical explanation given as to why an agency that is fully funded by public money should not act openly. It would seem that they have something to hide.”