Gov't to compensate W. Bank settlers

Restitution mechanism in place for those hurt by building moratorium.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
May 28, 2010 04:33
3 minute read.
An outpost in the West Bank.

West Bank outpost 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

 
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The government is expected to announce the compensation formula for settlers harmed by the six-month-old new-construction moratorium in the coming weeks, although it is still not certain how much money needs to be budgeted due to ongoing negotiations, sources close to the talks told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

Although the building freeze is more than halfway over, the government has yet to publish detailed guidelines and formulas for applying for or receiving compensation for losses suffered by private individuals, building contractors, or local governments. Settlers’ advocates and the government, however, have come closer in recent weeks to agreeing on a formula for compensation.

Due to the lack of a complete system for assessing damage, the government still does not know what the final price tag will be for the 10-month-long freeze. An earlier government decision budgeted NIS 30 million for immediate compensation funds, but many assessments peg that number as well below the final price tag.

Although the Post received a draft copy of the guidelines for compensation for businesses and private individuals who have incurred financial damages due to the freeze that a Finance Ministry representative said would be published next week, at least one settler representative directly involved in the negotiations said that there are “still gaps regarding compensation for both private individuals, as well as local governments.”

In a May 4 missive from the Finance Ministry to cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser, Yariv Nehama, senior deputy to the accountant-general and Sharon Zambshu, the ministry’s deputy budget director, presented detailed guidelines for developers, homebuyers and employers to qualify for compensation.

According to that draft, those who violated the freeze order will not be granted compensation for the period from the start of the moratorium until the date they stopped violating the order.

Together with the plans for compensation, the Finance Ministry also received a report from the Justice Ministry’s Land Assessment Authority, detailing the average estimated monthly rent per square meter in dozens of West Bank settlements.

Assessed prices per square meter range from NIS 40 in Givat Oranim and NIS 38 in Har Adar to NIS 10 per meter in Hermesh and Mevo Dotan in Samaria and Argaman, Gitit, Hamra, Yatev, Mechora, Ro’i and Rotem in the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area.

Area beyond 150 square meters will be compensated at a reduced rate, while apartments smaller than 65 square meters will be calculated at a rate 15% higher than the listed rate per settlement.


MK Uri Ariel (National Union) has repeatedly complained that the Claims Committee set up by the government to review compensation requests still does not have clear published criteria, making citizens uncertain as to what they must submit to process their requests.

Ariel said that when he asked the committee regarding complaints that he received from his constituents, he was told that there were simply not many appeals submitted.

“It is clear why,” said Ariel. “People do not know what exactly they are supposed to file for. And as if that isn’t enough, the appeals committee does not operate at all.”

Estimates at the number of individuals impacted by the freeze run as high as 350,000, the number presented by MK Ya’acov Katz (National Union) at a recent Knesset hearing. If that assessment were to be correct, the NIS 30m. would provide slightly over NIS 10 per person.

During the same hearing, the director-general of a construction firm building a project in the West Bank city of Modi’in Ilit said that since the government’s decision his firm had lost NIS 19m., bringing it to the brink of bankruptcy and leaving 80 families uncertain about the future of their homes. Among the expenses that contractors are incurring is the hiring of employees to calm worried buyers.

An additional NIS 3m. has been demanded by the claims committee itself, with committee chairwoman attorney Dina Poliak telling the Knesset hearing that the committee needed the budget to hire additional advisers. Poliak added that her committee had only received 12 requests for claims thus far.

AP contributed to this report.

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