A report in Israel has uncovered a massive funding pipeline for the Israeli government to fund West Bank settlements at the expense of communities in Israel.
The report, published by NIF partner Molad, the Center for Renewal of Israeli Democracy, caused an uproar in Israel. Major media and many citizens are questioning and criticizing the pipeline of funding to settlements, especially in light of the social and economic situation of communities in the Negev and around Gaza.
Last year the settlement of Beit El near Ramallah received NIS 51.5 million, more than the entire population of the Negev and Galilee combined, while settlers in the Har Hebron region received NIS 1,418 per person, compared to NIS 130 million for those in the southern Eshkol region inside Israel. Seventy five percent of the NIS 200 million funneled through the World Zionist Organization for payments to local authorities and communities are transferred to West Bank settlements, many allied with the governing coalition’s Jewish Home party, the de facto political representative of the settlements in the Knesset.
At the same time, another report by NIF grantee Adva Center has also revealed huge gaps between government funding for communities in pre-1967 Israel and West Bank settlements. The report found that, between 1991 and 2012, the highest government budgeting per capita was recorded in the settlements. In 2012 it equaled NIS 2,695 per resident on average, in comparison with NIS 2,277 in Arab communities, NIS 1,892 in development towns, and NIS 1,684 in the largest cities in Israel. Among these four groups, the most significant budgetary increase (240%) was recorded in the settlements, while per capita government spending actually decreased in the development towns.
Adva Center Executive Director Barbara Swirski said: “[The development town] holds an inferior position by all parameters, in contrast to the ideological settlements. That is part of the reason that the settlements (except for the ultra-Orthodox ones) are on a middle-high socioeconomic status, while the development towns are middle-low status.”
In response to the report, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) and MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) appealed to the State Comptroller Yosef Shapira and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to open an investigation into these funding discrepancies. “The data in the study reveal a disturbing situation of a blatant and systematic budget discrimination against communities in the north and south of the country, as opposed to communities located beyond the Green Line,” they wrote. “We want to speak out on behalf of the residents of Israel’s periphery, residents of the north and south…an act of underhanded opportunism is happening behind their backs, that prevents them from receiving funds to which they are lawfully entitled in order to develop their communities, the infrastructure in their area, draw new residents and improve the quality of their lives. We want to speak out for them against the blatant and shameless unfairness of the Settlement Division’s dividing of resources…discrimination between the residents created an unbearable situation of different classes, in which one group of residents is worth more than the others. We call for a comprehensive examination of the Settlement Division’s conduct that was revealed in the study.”