Settlers and right-wing politicians appealed on Thursday to ministers and the
attorney-general to rescind Sunday’s cabinet vote, which exempted all 70
settlements on the national priority list from automatically receiving special
“This is a case of discrimination that we can not
accept,” said Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of
Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, the cabinet approved a
package of special housing grants, loans and incentives to all communities on
the national priority list.
A notification of the vote was sent to the
media and posted on the prime minister’s website, without any additional
information or clarification that it did not pertain to Judea and
But on Sunday night, hours after the weekly cabinet meeting,
cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser held a telephone vote through which, at Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s urging, ministers voted 15 to 10 to place a
restriction on issuing the grants to the 70 West Bank settlements in
The Prime Minister’s Office has not provided a list of how
The one-line amendment to the cabinet decision stated,
“providing [housing] benefits to communities in Judea and Samaria will be
subject to a political decision.”
Officials have further clarified that
this means additional approval is needed before such grants can be
But settlers fear that this is a carefully worded way to deny them
the grants and have argued that it is tantamount to removing them from the
An official noted, however, that when it came to housing
and construction, it was already understood that special permission was needed
for settlements on the national priority list to access funds automatically
granted to all other communities on the list.
All the amendment did was
to ensure that this policy was extended to a new package of housing benefits,
the official said.
But he clarified that the settlements were not taken
off the list. The issue of removing the settlements arose in 2009, when the
cabinet voted on changes to the criteria and the list.
At the time, the
government decided to keep them on the list, to ensure that they remained
eligible for security grants and access to funding for services available to
other communities in the periphery.
Eligibility for special treatment
offered to communities on the national priority list often varies depending on
the ministry involved.
Under prime minister Ariel Sharon, the government
promised the United States that it would stop offering special incentives to the
settlements, but this has translated into not providing extra support for
Settlements are still eligible for grants in other areas
such as security and education.
In 2009, when the new priority list was
drafted, the Netanyahu government promised the US that although settlements
remained on the National Priority list they were not eligible for additional
housing grants and incentives.
Efrat municipal council head Oded Ravivi,
whose settlement south of the capital is on the national priority list, said
that in the past, he had believed that it was possible to access the fund with
Now he fears permission will always be
So far, he said, he had failed to receive clarification from the
government regarding what extra steps he needed to take to receive the
“We have a few [construction] tenders that are open and people
need to know if they are going to get discounts,” he said. He was concerned by
the amendments vague wording.
Already, Ravivi said, contractors and
homeowners in Efrat were being denied incentives from the standard benefits
Dayan, in a letter he sent to the cabinet ministers on Sunday,
argued that the pledge to the US involved halting incentives to settlements that
were not offered to communities elsewhere in the country.
There was no
reason why periphery communities such as settlements could not be given the same
rights as other similar communities across the country, Dayan
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein
(Likud), who opposed the amendment, said settlements in Judea and Samaria should
be eligible “by right” to the same incentives offered other national priority
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asked the
attorney-general to intervene, in a letter in which it said the vote on the
amendment had been illegal.
On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman
Victoria Nuland indicated that US special envoy David Hale would seek
clarification on the meaning of Sunday’s cabinet vote during his visit in Israel
over the weekend.