Why Does Israel Pour Billions Into West Bank Jewish Settlements?

Huge Subsidies, Not Politics or Security, Come Under Scrutiny

Smile, You Got a Subsidy: Jewish settlers pose for pictures in the Palestinian town of Hebron. Israeli lawmakers are increasingly questioning th high cost of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
getty images
Smile, You Got a Subsidy: Jewish settlers pose for pictures in the Palestinian town of Hebron. Israeli lawmakers are increasingly questioning th high cost of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

By Maayan Lubell

Published June 24, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(Reuters) — Israeli lawmakers are pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lift what they call unjustified secrecy over opaque - and rising - funding for settlements on West Bank land Palestinians want for a state.

Unpublished official data reviewed by Reuters suggests state spending on settlers rose by a third after Netanyahu took office in 2009 and critics complain that the cost of settlements has long remained hidden in thickets of budgetary convolution.

Condemned by U.S. and European allies as illegal obstacles to peace with the Palestinians, settlements face a new wave of hostility within Israel - from taxpayers who suspect the state of handing on their money by the back door to a vocal minority.

“I’m a member of the finance committee and I’m telling you, I’m being conned,” said Elazar Stern, who sits in parliament for chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni’s liberal Hatnuah party.

“Funds are hidden. Clauses are lumped together so that you vote on an item that is justified and then they slip it in.”

Netanyahu dropped his objection to a Palestinian state after becoming prime minister in 2009 but has defended an expansion of Israeli building in the West Bank and rejects the Palestinian view that it shows he is not serious about a two-state solution.

While the rise in funding underlines Netanyahu’s commitment to keeping some occupied land in any deal with the Palestinians, their cost has become a target of middle-class discontent on the economy that drove street protests in 2011 and last year sent new lawmakers to parliament to challenge the right-wing premier.

The drive for transparency, which has support from some of those newly elected critics whom Netanyahu has had to bring into coalition, saw the Supreme Court last week order the Finance Ministry to offer changes in rules for oversight of the budget.

The pro-settler chair of the parliamentary finance committee defended the existing process. But a senior government official told Reuters there was some obfuscation - not to misuse tax revenues but to frustrate foreign critics of the settlements:

“We are discreet about the figures,” he conceded, “Since there are those who exaggerate and use them against Israel.”

There is little prospect of any government giving up major settlement blocs; many who grumble at the cost, or see hardline settlers as dangerous religious zealots, still support the idea of Israelis living in the big, suburban settlements that act as buffers between Jerusalem and the Arab cities of the West Bank.

So the dispute may not change the familiar calculus that saw U.S.-brokered talks with the Palestinians break down again in April amid recriminations over the expansion of big settlements.

But the row over money has highlighted divisions in Israeli public opinion on the issue and has put settler leaders on the defensive, fearing that especially some more controversial and remote hilltop outposts could be choked of funds.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.