There is a constant refrain amongst certain sectors of Israeli society, echoed in the international media, NGOs and the like, that successive Israel governments filter off millions (even billions) of shekels to the “illegal”* settlements, to the detriment of regular “legal”* Israeli citizens in “Israel proper”. One of the commenters on my post about the social protests in Israel has used this argument too. Therefore I am happy to be able to enlighten you with the real numbers behind this apparent budgetary generosity on the part of the Israeli government.
Via the Muqata we read a letter from Emily Amrousi, a “settler”* living in the “settlement”* of Talmon.
Before I go any further, a word about the asterisks marking the words in quote marks. I don’t regard settlements as anything other than Israeli towns situated in Judea and Samaria; settlers are no more than Israelis living in these towns, and the legality of the settlements has been pretty well decided. At the most, their status is “disputed”, certainly not illegal.
Emily’s letter is translated from the Hebrew original here. Because it is a translation, I will quote from the Muqata’s post but I will correct the English grammar and syntax:
The whole truth about “money for settlements” and where did they hide the money for my settlement?
The Budget is skewed because of the settlements. Known. The Israeli government spends billions on the territories. Known. In general, it is known that settlers have more fun.
Every time the suggestion arises to “turn off the faucet to the settlers,” my soul collapses and my settler eyebrows rise: Where is that money?
I’m holding the monthly bill for the community where I live. Every month I pay 2500 shekel to rent a cardboard-lined and tin-roofed trailer. I repeat: 2500 shekels. To finance municipal services I pay the same property tax rate prevailing in Israel, per meter. For me that comes to 3048 shekels a year – for a caravan (trailer). Including, incidentally, one of the highest sewerage fee rates, something not paid in many areas. And then there are special taxes, collected only from settlers: local community tax – 250 shekels a month; security tax – 160 shekels a month.
I would be happy to stop with these details, but when every ignoramus talks about “money to the settlers”, this requires closer scrutiny.
To finance the building of the synagogue, we pay 150 shekels a month (payment obligatory, beyond any private contributions to the synagogue). For all communal events we pay full price. Rates for day care centres, afternoon child care centres and kindergartens are fixed by the Ministry of Labour and Industry, and are identical to what is paid by parents in the rest of the country. Private child-care services are more expensive, because of a lack of competition. To support the weak members of the community and to prevent them becoming a burden on the welfare authorities, we have special obligatory charity funds , and other mutual aid societies (“gamachim”). Even our needy are not dependent upon the state.
For many years already there have been no tax breaks for those who live in Judea and Samaria. For over a decade there has been no budget allocated for development and infrastructure for settlements. And the myth of the soldiers guarding our gates? Irrelevant for years: We pay a security company and do or own reserve duty at night (1 night of the month, a full day once every three months).
Building lots are developed by contractors, and priced accordingly. There are no housing grants, no location loans. Nothing. A month ago my settlement offered a plot for construction at 450 thousand shekels. Contractor-built homes with 4 rooms (3 bedrooms) are sold for nearly one million shekels. And I have still not said a word about the huge sums that the settler has to pay for fuel. If you could tell me where the money is hiding, I’d love to know.
Peace Now “found and discovered two billion shekels from the state budget allocated to the settlers’ villas”. Very quickly these two billion fabrications became the complete truth: Israel is pouring its budget into the pockets of the delusional cult of hilltop grabbers! A closer examination reveals their creativity in creating this forgery, and how they arrived at such a nice round sum.
Well, to start with the state spent NIS 800 million on the Security Wall and seam line – the Left’s idea mind you, intended to protect the centre of the country (including those settlers remaining on the inside of the fence). An additional NIS 240 million was allocated for coordination activities in the territories. Do you know what that is? It’s a budget for assistance to the Palestinians. 240 million shekels went to finance the Disengagement plan [from Gaza -Ed.]. Indeed, that’s something that the settlers wanted very much and enjoyed.
NIS 100 million was invested in the Old City of Jerusalem. NIS 255 million went to upgrading the road to the Dead Sea – improving transport to the hotels. If pools of mud and tourists in bikinis are settlers – I had better update some of my friends.
NIS 172 million went for the Housing Ministry tenders in Maale Adumim and Har Homa – beyond the fact that this is Jerusalem and not isolated settlements, I would remind you that tenders are “a returning expense” – money that comes back: At the time of marketing the money comes back with profit to the state
Let’s continue. NIS 180 million to connect the northern neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the entrance to the city – no bearded settlers were observed in the region. 10 million shekels for the bulletproofing of buses – you got me there, this is in fact is blatant discrimination and a perk for the settlers.
And finally: 11 million shekels compensation for losses following boycotts of exporters. Ahem. Maybe Peace Now would like to explain how come there is a boycott of Israeli exporters in the world.
Read it again, no transfers of money to the settlers, no illegal funding.
The real amounts that are invested in Judea and Samaria are designed to provide for the minimal necessities of life. They are no different from State investment in any other region in the country, and are less than investment in national priority areas and development towns. The middle class of the settlements is the same worn-down sector that bears the burden of taxes and military service, and runs the same Sisyphean rat race to get an apartment. 40 thousand settlers live in caravans – a housing shortage associated with the cost of living no less than it is related to the settlement-building freeze. We accept the obligations with love. Our civil rights should be equal to all other Israelis, no less.
One of these rights, I hope is that we shouldn’t be slandered with lies.