Smotrich To Allocate Extra $180m to Settlements in Occupied Territories

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich intends to allocate NIS 670 million ($180 million) to West Bank settlements and allow the Interior Ministry to transfer funds to “unregulated places”, illegal settler outposts, according to a Tuesday report.

Kan public broadcaster reported that the extra-budget for the settlements will be partly funded by shaving the budgets of some other ministries — including NIS 130 million ($35 million) from the Education Ministry and NIS 200 million ($53.5 million) from the Interior Ministry. Smotrich is advancing the move with Settlements Minister Orit Strock of his fascist Religious Zionism party. The plan will be brought up for a government decision at the coming weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday

Mock graves placed outside of the Religious Zionism party headquarters in Jerusalem on August 14, 2023 (Photo: Peace Now)

Racist Smotrich’s budgetary actions have recently come under criticism after he decided to hold back NIS 200 million ($55 million) budgeted to develop Arab municipalities in Israel and freeze NIS 2.5 billion ($670 million) in funds meant for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.  Arab municipalities have called a general strike for next Monday in protest of Smotrich holding up the funds, and have threatened to not open the coming school year at the beginning of September.

The Abraham Initiatives, which campaigns for equal social and political rights among Jews and Arabs, responded to the Kan report by accusing the government of trying to make the lives of Arab citizens “intolerable.” “Instead of transferring budgets to Israeli citizens who live within the borders of the country and desperately need budgets to reduce the gaps, the finance minister sees himself as the finance minister of the settlements only,” the group said.

Monday, protesters set up mock graves outside the offices of the Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party in Jerusalem. The activists also posted large stickers at the building entrance reading, “Warning! Terror supporters and coup architects work in this building.” The organizers said the stunt was meant to bring attention to the party’s alleged support for “terror attacks against Palestinians and their efforts to agitate.” Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Combatants for Peace and Standing Together activists were behind the protest.