ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Wasting Money on Illegal Settlement Outposts

Wasting Money on Illegal Settlement Outposts

08 November 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The proposed Israel state budget for 2004 is 254.7 billion shekels, some 45% of the GNP.  Over the past years the GNP has fallen over 2% due to the world economic slump and Palestinian violence.  There is belt tightening throughout Israel, except when it comes to illegal (by Israeli law) settler outposts in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).  The Housing Minister Efi Eitam of the right wing National Religious Party makes sure monies pour across the old border, but he is not the only player in the game.  The Sharon coalition succeeded by a one vote majority in the Knesset finance committee a week ago to appropriate over 100 million shekels in additional funding to such outposts and in effect to begin legalization of several of them.

Which only teaches one to violate the law, knowing full well your politicians will bail you out, provided they are in the government.  The NRP and National Union parties are doing just that concerning settler violations of Israeli law.  Such actions deem it imperative to flout all legal statutes.

The illegal outposts complicate the international situation, not only leading to an impossible situation of entanglement with the Arab population in Judea and Samaria and a Palestinian majority bi-national state in the future, but the caravan settlements damage relations with the United States.  The Americans understood Sharon would be good to his word in Aqaba and remove such developments, regardless of Palestinian promises to reign in terrorism.

The Right is quietly running the show and the center right Likud as senior coalition partner shows no interest in putting a halt to the waste of funds and the ensuing political-diplomatic entanglement.  Many ask where PM Sharon is heading, since the security fence is going up and quite a few outposts will be on the eastern Palestinian side.  It costs millions of shekels to remove the illegal structures and right wing demonstrators, since the amount of security personnel needed runs into the hundreds if not thousands along with the bulldozers and other equipment needed for a successful evacuation.  The army must defend such outposts should they be allowed to stand and loses valuable training time, or are removed from anti-terror security tasks when called to the task.

Once the fence is completed, those Jews on the eastern side will feel security pressures more than anyone.  Is Sharon setting them up for the great fall?  He has neither the budget nor manpower for forced evacuations.  Yamit was in the middle of a building craze as it was evacuated in 1982 as the last part of Israel’s pullback from Sinai, and then Defense Minister Sharon gave the order.  Or is the PM really intent on keeping everything knowing full well the demographic consequences and the implications for Israeli democracy since the Palestinians will not become Israeli citizens.  Or maybe when he does decide on a withdrawal the two right wing parties will be forced to quit the coalition and Labor will have no choice but to join and agree to the security fence demarcation.

But the issue at the moment is money, waste and demographic entanglement.  The centrist Shinui faction (the most dovish coalition partner) has so far said nothing.  Shinui Chairman Tommy Lapid with 15 seats (out of 68 in the coalition) could put an ultimatum to the Likud, threatening to quit and bringing about coalition collapse should more funds be drained off into the West Bank.

But the usually noisy Lapid is silent.  Has Shinui been bought off (and with what?) or is something unexpected going to happen?

In the meantime the government is wasting money during a furious recession and losing credibility both at home and abroad.