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Netanyahu, Ya'alon agree to divert $18m from defense budget to expand Beit El settleme

by Chaim Levinson        4 January 2015          Haaretz

PM sought to allocate money last month as part of the agreements with Beit El settlers overt the 2012 removal of five apartment buildings, but former finance minister Lapid blocked the move.

Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood

Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood. Photo by Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon agreed to use 70 million shekels ($17.8 million) from the defense budget to evacuate a Border Police base in the Beit El settlement and to build infrastructure there for 300 new homes, Channel 10 reported on Sunday.

The money had been promised by Netanyahu to Beit El settlers in return for their agreement to the state's removal in 2012 of five apartment buildings at the Ramallah-area settlement that had been built illegally on private, Palestinian-owned land.

Haaretz reported in November that Netanyahu, under pressure from Housing Minister Uri Ariel, had ordered the transfer of the money to keep his side of the Beit El deal. Then-Finance Minister Yair Lapid blocked the move, saying it was up to the government to decide publicly on such an expenditure, and not a matter for the prime minister to decide quietly on his own. Netanyahu had made the decision and kept it under wraps rather than risk the political fallout that was likely to follow. His dismissal of Lapid and takeover of the Finance Ministry last month evidently gave the Beit El deal new life.

It came about in summer 2012, when a Supreme Court petition by the anti-occupation NGO Yesh Din led the state to order the removal of five buildings, containing 30 populated apartments, that had been built without permits on Palestinian-owned land. The evacuation was carried out with the locals' consent, as a result of a pact worked out by cabinet Minister Gilad Erdan, with Netanyahu's approval.

The deal included the transfer of government funds to expand the population of Beit El, which included the creation of temporary housing for the settlement's evacuees and the Defense Ministry's construction – which is taking place now – of 90 homes for settlers connected to Yeshivat Beit El.


Middle East Monitior       2 Januray 2015

15,000 new Jewish settlers in West Bank in 2014


More than 15,000 Israelis moved to Jewish-only settlements located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank over the course of 2014, an Israeli official said Friday.


"Interior Ministry figures, showing that Judea-Samaria [the Jewish name for the West Bank] currently has nearly 400,000 Israelis, demonstrates [that] settlement in Judea-Samaria is an irreversible fact," former Yesha Council head Dani Dayan said Friday.

The Yesha Council is an umbrella organization for the municipal councils of West Bank Jewish settlements.

According to Dayan, the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank has risen by 15,000 since 2013.

Some Israelis reportedly prefer living in West Bank settlements - rather than Israeli cities - due to the low cost of housing and the many privileges granted by Israel's pro-settlement government.

Many immigrants to the self-proclaimed Jewish state are also said to prefer settlement life.

The figures given by Dayan did not include those Israelis living on settlements in East Jerusalem, whose numbers are estimated at more than 200,000.