Settlers: Freeze could cost close to a billion shekels

Settlers Freeze could c

Settler leaders on Monday rejected as insufficient Likud MK Carmel Shama's call for the government to immediately put aside NIS 100 million to compensate those who have been financially harmed by the building freeze in their settlements. In a heated hour-long debate at the Knesset Finance Committee, parliamentarians grappled publicly, for the first time, with the lack of any legislation to deal with the decree imposed by the security cabinet two weeks ago. There were no representatives from the Finance and Defense ministries at the meeting, although they had been invited. Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman said he believed that the true cost of the 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction could be as high as NIS 1 billion. His city alone, he said, could suffer a loss of NIS 60m-NIS 70m. Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel later said his city could incur a loss of NIS 80m. Attorney Moshe Glick told the Finance Committee that he represented 350 families from Modi'in Illit who were in the process of obtaining permits for new construction and had already invested money in their new homes with the belief that they would be authorized. Located just over the Green Line, the haredi city of more than 42,000 is the largest West Bank settlement. Glick said that his clients bought homes there because they wanted to live in a haredi environment and did not consider themselves settlers. MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) said in response that he wanted to welcome "all those, who until this moment, did not understand that they were settlers." One Finance Committee member scoffed at the idea that Modi'in Illit residents did not consider themselves settlers. To this, Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) responded, "Now you are telling the haredim how to feel?" He added, "They went there because there is no other available haredi housing." Glick said his clients were large families with no resources to withstand the freeze. The text of the injunction that set the freeze in motion, he said, allows for appeals only from people that have permits. It does not take into account those who have yet to get their permits, he said. Gush Etzion Regional Council Chairman Shaul Goldstein said, "It is very easy to issue stop-work orders, but we are the ones who have to deal with the ramifications of it." There are whole neighborhoods, he added, where work has been stopped in the middle. Orbach said it was important to separate out the politics of the matter. "You have to see these people as citizens whose rights have been harmed," he said. At the end of the debate the Finance Committee appointed a task force to speak with the relevant ministries about the issue and then report back to the committee. After the meeting, Kashriel, who also spoke in the Knesset with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said he found the responses he had received discouraging, although he would not divulge the content of his conversation with Netanyahu. "We are getting warm words and people are identifying with our sorrow, but no one is helping," said Kashriel.