by Chaim Levinson 21 January 2015 Haaretz
Since Uri Ariel became housing minister, government subsidies have been diverted to construction in the territories.
The Housing and Construction Ministry subsidizes, to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels, infrastructure-development projects for the construction of new housing units in national priority areas. These areas are determined based on a map that the government approved in January 2012 during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s second government. The purpose of the subsidy is “to encourage positive immigration to the communities and to strengthen their economic resilience.”
Haaretz’s analysis of the information that the ministry published about the subsidies provided over the past four years shows the state assisted in the construction of 8,800 housing units, 2,400 of them in the settlements. The total cost of the subsidy for building in the settlements during those years was 184 million shekels ($46.7 million) — 35 percent of the development budgets that were provided.
Many budgets have been diverted to the settlements since Ariel of Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi took office in March 2013. For example, in 2011 — when a different map of national priority areas was in use — the state did not subsidize the construction of a single housing unit in the territories, compared with 617 inside the Green Line. In 2012, 353 housing units in the territories were budgeted, compared with 1,233 inside Israel’s sovereign borders.
In 2013 budgets were provided for 1,604 housing units in the territories and 2,462 housing units inside Israel and in 2014, money went to 513 housing units in the settlements and 1,916 in Israel. During Ariel’s term, 32 percent of the budget for funding the construction of housing units was transferred to the territories.
The percentage of settlements that received budgets, out of the total number of settlements on the map of national priority areas, is particularly high: 44 of 67 of the settlements that appear on the map — 65 percent — received development budgets. By comparison, only 119 communities of the 580 inside Israel that appear on the map — only 20 percent — received such budgets.
Although the information is made public on the Housing and Construction Ministry’s website, a ministry spokesperson commented that “the statistics are not at all accurate.” Ministry officials said that “the inclusive statistics of the neighborhoods that are in development in the rural communities, where the sale of the housing units has not ended yet, are as follows: 9,205 housing units are being developed in the Galilee, of which 5,353 were put on the market; 6,413 housing units are being developed in the Negev, of which 3,558 were put on the market; and in Judea and Samaria, 1,778 housing units are being developed, of which 517 have been put on sale. That makes 17,396 housing units, of which 1,778 are in Judea and Samaria — ten percent of the total number of housing units that are being developed in rural construction... and 5.48 percent of the total number put on the market.”
The Housing and Construction Ministry officials added: “All the ministry’s actions are carried out in accordance with the law. In addition, all the marketing, development costs and development subsidies appear in a completely transparent and detailed manner on the ministry’s website.”
Israel retroactively okayed illegal settlement construction
by Chaim Levinsin 22 January 2015 Haaretz
The Housing Ministry subsidized retroactively the illegal construction of dozens of housing units in the West Bank settlement Ofra. As Haaretz reported on Wednesday, nearly a third of the state’s budget for subsidized housing has been transferred to the territories since Uri Ariel became housing and construction minister two years ago.
Also, according to figures released by the ministry, 28 percent of the housing units subsidized by its rural construction administration over the past four years were built in the settlements – even though the settlements comprise only 10 percent of the communities on the map of national priority areas.
Ofra, for example, received 1.7 million shekels for building 66 apartments, at the cost of about 27,000 shekels per apartment. This means buyers had to add 194,000 shekels to the subsidized development costs.
The funding was authorized by the ministry’s rural construction administration on December 18 2013. But the construction work had begun without authorization or permits already three years earlier.
The Amana settlement movement, which is responsible for massive illegal construction in the territories, started extensive construction work in an area that was confiscated from its Palestinian owners and given to Ofra at the end of 2010.
In April 2011 Palestinians claiming to be the owners petitioned the High Court of Justice against the construction on their land. In June 2011 Justice Miram Naor issued an interim injunction banning construction work on the site.
Several homes had already been inhabited before the injunction was issued, while dozens of others were stuck in various construction stages.
In January 2014 the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration approved the construction retroactively and signed a master plan for the area. The Housing Ministry claims it only passed on the money after a valid master plan had been submitted.
But according to reports issued by the ministry, the construction began in 2011, which means the ministry officials knew it was going on without a permit.
Haaretz’s analysis of the information that the ministry published about the subsidies provided over the past four years shows the state assisted in the construction of 8,800 housing units, 2,400 of them in the settlements. The total cost of the subsidy for building in the settlements during those years was 184 million shekels ($46.7 million) – 35 percent of the development budgets that were provided.
Funds from numerous budgets have been diverted to the settlements since Ariel of Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party took office in March 2013.
The Housing Ministry said on Wednesday that the master plan for Ofra, on which the ministry based its approval for the development costs, was released in January 2014 but had been valid since December 2013.
The ministry subsidizes the public development – not the construction – and began doing so only after the master plan had been approved, it said.
“If there was illegal construction ... before the master plan had been approved, then the local authority is responsible for it. The authority’s duty is to enforce the law and prevent illegal construction,” the ministry replied.