More than $14 billion has been spent on West Bank settlements over the past four decades, according to a new study released Friday, one of the most comprehensive attempts to assess the total expenditures for the communities.
An exact figure for how much money has been spent on the settlements since Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 has been nearly impossible to obtain, since settlement spending is spread throughout numerous areas of the budget and not identified as specific funding for the settlements.
The Israeli Research Institute for Economic and Social Affairs, an independent body, resorted to retroactive cost estimates and aerial photography to come up with its figure. Other studies have come up with similar figures. In 2003, Haaretz did a study of budgets and expenditures and determined that up to that date, Israel had spent $10.1 billion on the settlements.
Neither study included military expenditures. The new report also did not take into account expenditures on education, welfare and social services.
The main expenditures, according to the new study, were $9b. for housing, $1.6b. for roads, and $1.8b. for public institutions and schools.
A year after Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, Orthodox Jews took over a hotel in Hebron, starting Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Creation and expansion of settlements continued unchecked until last summer, when Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip and four northern West Bank settlements, destroying 25 settlements.
Government figures showed about 244,000 Israelis were living in West Bank settlements at the end of 2004.
The study released Friday by the Tel Aviv-based institute used aerial photographs of the settlements, and researchers figured the cost by evaluating the value of the materials and planning, adding the cost of roads and other infrastructure, said the institute's director, Roby Nathanson.
He said the institute spent the first six months of the 18-month project trying to get official figures, "but then we invented another methodology when we didn't get cooperation from any side."
The study concludes that "the value of the buildings constructed in the West Bank, in current values effective June 2005 and based on calculations of cost only, equals about $14 billion."
Nathanson said the database that resulted from the exhaustive study can be used for future planning regarding the settlements, whether it means evacuation and compensation or turning them over to the Palestinians.
The institute is funded primarily by the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung foundation, which also backs Jewish-Arab dialogue projects and the Mossawa Center for Civil Rights for Arabs in Israel.
Among the findings, the report determined that the Israeli government contributes twice as much proportionally to settlement budgets as it does to local budgets inside pre-1967 Israel. Also, settlers are much younger than Israelis in other areas.
The institute prepared the report in secret to avoid political pressures, said spokesman Nissim Duek. He said it would be presented to Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the coming days. (AP)
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