According to the report of the Israeli non-governmental organization Peace Now, the far-right Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will “unprecedented” increase the funds allocated to Jewish settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.
According to the Israeli NGO’s report, the government’s draft plan includes funding of 671.63 million shekels (about $190 million) from the 2023-2024 budget. However, in addition to this, there are items that have not yet determined allocation amounts and therefore the total amount is expected to increase significantly.
The 92 million shekels of these funds are defined as “(expenditure) undefined funds” and allow settlements to use this money for almost any purpose.
In the report, it was pointed out that some of the budgets were determined in the coalition agreement of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government formed with extreme right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties.
Thus, this means allocating certain sums to the far-right Religious Zionism Party, which is part of the coalition.
The increase in funds from illegal settlements is exactly “10 times”
According to the report, funds allocated to settlements in previous governments’ decisions from 2016 amounted to 71 million shekels for education, welfare and development purposes.
The current plan is about ten times the amount the government set six years ago.
A significant portion of this funding will go to the “Settlements Squadron”, a non-governmental organization funded by the Israeli government but dependent on the World Zionist Organization, under the auspices of the Ministry of Settlements and National Mission.
This NGO is free from government transparency and oversight, nor does it need to provide information like a government agency. At least 95 million shekels of the fund will be allocated directly to the Settlement Division.
Sprawling settlements target Palestinian livelihoods
Funds for infrastructure, education and school construction will enable settlers to strengthen agricultural farms scattered across the West Bank, according to the report.
Financing 50 illegal agricultural farms in the West Bank means strengthening one of the initiatives against Palestinians that has fueled infighting and settler violence.
Numerous cases of violence against Palestinians by Jewish settlers originating from these farms have been documented so far.
In the details of the report, which includes the distribution of the fund amount, the following allocations draw attention, in addition to basic needs such as education and health:
13.7 million shekels for Torah and ideological education, 27.6 million shekels for settlements that are illegal even under Israeli law because they were built illegally, 57 million shekels to encourage the Jewish settler population and workforce.
Israeli government fuels conflict with Palestinians
In the statement made by Barış Now, it was pointed out that the Israeli government uses all its power and the budget at its disposal to support a certain sector, namely illegal Jewish settlements, at the expense of the general public.
The statement included the following statements:
“The allocation of 700 million shekels by the current government decision is testament to the shamelessness of public officials in putting the interests of a small group living in the occupied territories above the rest of Israeli society.
Instead of investing in Israel’s future, the Israeli government is pouring money into settlements, continuing the occupation and fueling conflict with the Palestinians.”
About 700,000 Jewish settlers live in about 300 illegal and illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law.
In the coalition government established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the end of 2022 in Israel, names such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who are known for their racist actions and discourses against Palestinians, and supporters of Jewish settlers, were appointed to critical ministries.
Smotrich, the finance minister and leader of the far-right Religious Zionism Party, had promised to “double” the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank if they came to power before taking office.
In this period when the far-right is in power, especially in Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank; There has been an increase in mass attacks by Jewish settlers in which vehicles and houses are set on fire, shootings are opened, Palestinians are killed or injured.
According to the reports of international human rights organizations, at least 488 Palestinians, 263 of whom are children, have been forcibly displaced since 2022 due to increasing settler attacks and harassment in “zone C” of the West Bank.