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Israel illegal settlement councils receive $39m govt. funding

A view of construction works in a Jewish settlement in Jerusalem on 4 October 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
A view of construction work taking place in a Jewish settlement in Jerusalem on 4 October 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s illegal settlements receive 144 million shekels ($39 million) in government funding for regional councils, a new Knesset report has revealed.

The report was undertaken by the Knesset’s Research and Information Centre and disclosed the vast sums of money the Israeli government gives to its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank across education, welfare and support grants.

The report found that the Israeli government gives $39 million to regional councils located in the occupied West Bank, which amounts to 25 per cent of Israel’s regional council budget, Ynet reported. This is despite the fact that West Bank councils only account for five per cent of all Israeli regional councils.

Israel’s illegal settlements are also disproportionately funded in other sectors, including 99.8 million shekels ($27 million) given in grants, which constitutes 9.2 per cent of all grants awarded by the government. Over six per cent of these grants are given to just two settlements – the ultra-Orthodox Beitar Illit and Modi’in Illit, situated west of Bethlehem and east of Lod (Lydda) respectively.

Students in illegal settlements are also given more funding than their counterparts inside Israel, with a student in the settlements receiving 15,900 shekels ($4,300) per year compared to the 9,800 shekels ($2,655) per year given to students inside Israel, Ynet added.

The report reviewed the government funding given to the illegal settlements between 2015 and 2016 and did not take into account spending on security, meaning the total government expenditure on the settlements is in fact even higher.

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The findings of the report come just days after it emerged that Israeli taxpayers’ money was used to give loans to illegal settlers through the World Zionist Organisation (WZO). An investigation by Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed scores of documents which showed the WZO’s Settlement Division had provided mortgages for 26 illegal outposts and construction inside Israeli government-sanctioned settlements over the past 20 years. Both outposts and settlements are illegal under international law.

Last week, Israel approved a budget of 22 million shekels ($6 million) to build a new illegal settlement in Hebron, in the south of the occupied West Bank. The Civil Administration – which oversees Israel’s settlement population – approved the plan to build the settlement prior to the government’s official approval of the budget.

Since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, it has consistently pursued a policy of illegal settlement. Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem states that, as of the end of 2015, there were 127 Israeli government-sanctioned settlements in the West Bank (not including occupied East Jerusalem and Hebron). This was in addition to 100 non-recognised outposts and 15 Israeli neighbourhoods inside the Jerusalem Municipality. B’Tselem estimates there are 588,000 illegal settlers living in the West Bank.

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