Opponents of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (“settlements”) charge that
they drain our economy, diverting funds that should be spent within the 1949
Armistice (“Green”) Lines. They accuse the government of giving settlers
unwarranted discounts and subsidies in the form of building schools and clinics,
infrastructure, such as roads, and providing security.
But is this true?
Adding up all government allocations over the Green Line, they include building
the separation fence/wall (NIS 18 billion), the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza
Strip (NIS 15b.), the development of the Iron Dome rocket defense system and
added protection for communities near Gaza. None of this was done to help
settlers. Jews were encouraged and assisted by the government to build
communities in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria; they cannot be faulted for
This simplistic method of calculation ignores the fact
that government expenditures would be required regardless of where people live.
Children need schools, parks and playgrounds, and basic medical care.
Communities need religious and cultural facilities that the state is obligated
to provide. And people need homes.
Destroying Jewish communities reduces
the supply of homes while demand increases, resulting in even higher housing
costs. Living in settlements near but outside densely populated urban and
industrial centers provides growing families with affordable and adequate living
space and employment opportunities. Without settlements the housing crisis would
be even worse.
Building roads in Judea and Samaria – which are used by
Jews and Arabs alike – is essential for economic growth, security and
Were it not for the alternative highway (Route 443) to the
Modi’in area and Ben-Gurion Airport, for example, getting there would be much
more difficult, especially when the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway (Route 1) is
The Trans-Samaria Highway (Route 5) is a vital link to the
Building Jewish communities in Judea and on the Golan
Heights began shortly after the Six Day War, under Labor governments; Jordan
Valley settlements were established well before those in Samaria and the Gaza
Strip. A consensus, settlements are acknowledged as strategic
Without settlements, aircraft, air and seaports would be
vulnerable. Without settlements, our water sources would become polluted and
depleted. Settlements offer a protective cover for the Coastal
Redeploying the IDF along the Green Line would make defense far
more difficult and far more costly. Moreover, Israel would lose its strategic
positions and buffer zones.
Settlements also contribute to the IDF’s
security system as first responders in emergencies.
The Gaza Strip and
southern Lebanon were not evacuated to help settlers, obviously, and the
resulting losses are incalculable, since the disastrous effects are ongoing,
enabling Hamas and Hezbollah and turning the Sinai peninsula into a terrorist
Comparing government expenditures over the Green Line to all direct
and indirect subsidies and transfer payments reveals that “some are more equal
than others.” For example: subsidies, discounts and land transfers to kibbutzim
and moshavim, huge land and benefit grants to Beduin, “haircuts” (losses) to
investors – especially public pension funds, allowing monopolies and cartels,
including Histadrut extortions, permitting pyramid schemes and banking system
that serves the elite.
Settlements did not cause the collapse of banks in
the mid-1980s, or their bailout at public expense. Settlements didn’t cause
Palestinian terrorism. Arab suicide bombers were not upset by settlements; they
wanted to kill Jews.
Conflating security and defense costs with
assistance to settlements distorts reality and masks more serious economic
As the recent State Comptroller’s Report shows, big businesses
and tycoons are given vast benefits at the expense of consumers. “Loopholes
reduced tax revenues by NIS 5.6b., including NIS 4b. from just four
Some Israeli companies with billions in profits pay little or
no taxes. High economic concentration threatens Israel’s economic structure.
It’s a ripoff that makes government expenditures in “the territories” pale in
Billions have been spent trying to protect Israeli towns and
cities from rocket and missile attacks; billions more were lost on property
damage and reconstruction; billions more were spent on war, and on incalculable
costs in human suffering and death.
Lacking convincing evidence for their
claims that settlements cause economic, social and financial harm, opponents
switch the argument to “the occupation is morally corrupting.” The original
occupation, however, the “Nakba” (“catastrophe”) – basic to Palestinian ideology
– happened when the State of Israel was established in 1948, not as a result of
the Six Day War and settlement building.
This “moral” argument, moreover,
Suggesting that settlements be removed because of moral
principles ignores reality, endangers all Israelis and weakens our ability to
Using false and misleading arguments to undermine
Jewish communities and the rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel is
not only deceitful, it is fundamentally unethical and immoral.
is a historian and journalist living in Jerusalem.
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