An Israeli local authority spent “millions of shekels” building infrastructure for unauthorised settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, reported Haaretz today.
According to the paper, official documents show that the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council spent 6.46 million shekels ($1.9 million) over a three-year period from 2013-2015, funding the construction of “infrastructure, roads and buildings at the outposts”.
The data was received as part of a Freedom of Information request filed with the regional council by Peace Now.
The outposts which received the state funds include Esh Kodesh, Givat Harel, Kerem Re’im and even Amona, the latter subsequently evacuated by court order after being built on privately-owned Palestinian land. Hundreds of thousands of shekels were granted “for each project”.
Israeli authorities make a distinction between authorised settlements, and unauthorised, or “illegal”, ones. Under international law, all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal.
The Mateh Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Roeh confirmed to Haaretz that it had provided funding to these outposts. “We did it. We also notified the Education Ministry,” said Roeh.
Roeh justified the spending on the basis that the Israeli government has expressed its intention of retroactively “legalising” outposts “located on state land”.
Haaretz noted that “the funds involved from the regional council do not only come from the taxpayers living within the territory of the council”, since councils – including in the occupied West Bank – “receive hundreds of millions of shekels in funding directly from the government”.
“The Mateh Binyamin Regional Council is supposed to be the one to enforce the law and act according to it,” said Shabtay Bendet, the head of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project.
“Not only does it not enforce [the law], it funds and promotes illegal projects with our public funds. No police investigation has been opened on the matter. We call on the legal authorities to open an investigation,” he added.