The Israeli Knesset yesterday approved the new state budget for the next two years which includes investing 3.5 billion shekels ($941 million) into expanding Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
According to the Times of Israel, the majority of the funds will go towards paving new roads and improving existing ones, including highways to bypass Palestinian areas that further segregate Israeli settlers and Palestinians.
Moreover, hundreds of millions of shekels have been allocated to approve illegal settlements which have never received government authorisation.
The total funds from the allocated budget to upgrade and pave new roads in the occupied West Bank have been agreed between Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Transportation Minister Miri Regev.
They decided from this amount, to allocate a sum of $134 million towards expanding a road between the Ariel settlement and Tapuach Junction in the northern West Bank; $98 million to upgrade the access road to the Beit El Regional Council area.
They also agreed to contribute $81 million from the budget to finance a new road between the illegal settlement of Migron and Qalandia north of Jerusalem, which will bypass Qalandia refugee camp and confiscate thousands of acres of Palestinian-owned lands. Additionally, hundreds of millions more were allocated for roads in and around East Jerusalem.
The investment comprises 25 per cent of the Transportation Ministry’s budget for road infrastructure in the entire country, reported the Times of Israel, despite the population in the illegal settlements comprising just five per cent of Israel’s nearly ten million citizens.
Smotrich celebrated the budget approved by the Israeli Knesset as “excellent.”
Meanwhile, Yoni Mizrachi, a researcher with Peace Now, said: “All Israeli governments prioritise the West Bank settlements in the budget, but this government has gone even further and has taken money from core funds and given it to a small group living in the West Bank which in a political agreement with the Palestinians Israel will leave.”
“We are seeing an effort here to deepen Israel’s presence in the West Bank,” he added.
On 30 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council discussed a report on settlements and their repercussions on the Palestinian people’s rights, presented by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk.
In his report, Turk emphasised that “the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, increased from 520,000 to more than 700,000 over the past decade.”
The report documented the existence of a relationship between Israeli settlement expansion and settler attacks against Palestinians over the past decade, noting that the United Nations has verified 3,372 incidents of settler violence, which resulted in the injury of 1,222 Palestinians.