Gov’t Continues to Prioritize OPT Settlements over Localities in Israel

Israel’s far-right government continues to give budgetary priority to the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) over localities in Israel. This fact, which does not augur well for peace, was revealed in a periodic analysis of the central government’s transfers to municipal budgets recently published by the Adva Center, an Israeli NGO that provides information on equality and social justice in the country.

Non-Haredi (i.e., non-ultra-Orthodox) settlements in the occupied territories are still to be found at the top for three budgetary measures: the largest per capita municipal expenditure; the largest per capita subsidy allocated by the central government, mainly for education and social welfare services; and the largest per capita balance grant. The non-Haredi settlements continue to enjoy preference in comparison to several other types of municipalities: the 15 most affluent Israeli localities; the largely Mizrahi “development towns”; the Arab localities within Israel; and Haredi settlements,

The settlement of Har Homa south of occupied East Jerusalem

The settlement of Har Homa south of occupied East Jerusalem (Photo: Activestills)

For example, the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) settlements – Beitar Illit, Modiin Illit and Emanuel, are urban localities designed for low-income families. They are located close to the Green Line border between Israel and the Palestinian territories and are generally considered to present no obstacle to any possible two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In contrast, the non-Haredi settlements include, among others, the so called “ideological settlements,” many of them deep inside Palestinian territory, whose residents are strongly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.

The development towns, located mostly in outlying areas of the country, represent Israel’s largest pre-1967 government development project, and were established for the largely Mizrahi immigration of the 1950s and 1960s. They were at the forefront of Israel’s rapid industrialization, but their low-tech industries like textiles were soon overtaken by the post-1967 hi-tech defense industries, located in the geographical center of the country. Their subsequent peripheriality has only been accentuated by the preferential status given to the Jewish settlements inside the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The development towns are losing out in the field of political representation, too: representation of the OPT settlements in the Knesset has increased from one legislator who resided in a settlement in the 9th Knesset (1977-1981) to 12 such legislators in the 19th Knesset (2013-2015); representation of the developments towns, which was 12 legislators in the 13th and 14th Knessets (1992-1996 and 1996-1999, respectively), declined to only 4 in the 19th Knesset.