Tovah Lazaroff
The Jerusalem Post
July 22, 2009 - 12:00am

In past years, the government has spent 22.3 percent more on municipal budgets in the settlements than it has on such budgets within the Green Line, according to a new report issued Tuesday by the Israel European Policy Network.

It explained how in 2002, the state provided 34.7% of the municipality budget for communities within the Green Line, and 57% of settlements' municipal budgets.

Roby Nathanson, who coauthored the report for the policy forum, told The Jerusalem Post that the breakdown was similar in 2007.

The Finance Ministry could not be reached for comment.

The Prime Minister's Office referred the Post to a Washington Post article penned by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, which stated that his predecessor Ariel Sharon, whose term ended in January 2006, had promised the Americans that the government would not promote settlement growth through economic incentives.

Pinchas Wallerstein, the director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said the figure presented in the report was nonsense. He explained that money was given based on calculations that partially involved the presence of industry, army bases and distance from the border.

He added that the highest amount of government assistance in municipal budgets went to Arab communities within Israel and not the settlements.

Council chairman Dani Dayan said settlers had a higher rate of paying their taxes than citizens within the Green Line, and that might be confusing the ratio of how revenue in a municipal budget came from the state versus local taxes.

Still, the report said that in 2006, for example, the state spending on municipal budgets in the settlements accounted for 4.1% of its overall budget, while the number of settlers made up 3.8 % of the overall Israeli population.

From 2000 to 2002, according to the report, the settlements received $62.2 million or about 47% of the budget for the Construction and Housing Ministry's Rural Buildings and New Settlements District Administration.

Overall, in 40 years of settlement development, some $18 billion has been spent on the construction of buildings in those West Bank communities, the report stated.

More than half of the settlements, 56%, were built between 1977 and 1983 by former prime minister Menachem Begin's government, according to the report.

The largest number of the 145 settlements, 56, were built between 1981 and 1985, and another 34 between 1976 and 1980.

Twenty-five of those settlements were destroyed during the disengagement in the summer of 2005.

Settlement construction was at its height from 1976 to 1987, according to the report.

The number of apartment units completed in one year ranged from 4,300 in 1984 to 5,700 in 1987.

After that, the rate dropped to 960 dwellings a year for the next three years.

On a separate note, the report said it was likely that in a final-status agreement, most of the secular and haredi settlers would be able to remain in their communities, which are located close to the Green Line, while many of the national religious settlements were among those slated for evacuation.

Overall, it said, the settler population was growing three times as fast as that of the rest of the country.


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