Israel’s poor, including ex-settlers, face cuts as state funds head to the West Bank

Nitzan
Former settlers protest paying rent. (Photo: Tsafrir Abayov/Ynet News)

Once living comfortably in Gaza outposts, former Gush Katif settlers are no longer the apple of the government’s eye. Soon many will begin paying rent for the first time on their trailers after seven and a half years of government subsidies — and they’re not happy about it.

On Tuesday Haaretz reported the story:

Several days ago, the 500 or so families received their first bill from the government housing company Amigur, which is responsible for the crumbling prefabs known in Hebrew as caravillas, along with a letter informing them they would have to begin paying rent as of January 1. Rent for the 60-square-meter homes is NIS 1,400 a month, while families in 90-square-meter homes are being charged NIS 2,400 a month.

In its letter, Amigur warned that the Tenufa Administration, which is in charge of helping the evicted settlers, would be apprised of any nonpayment of rent, and that nonpayment would result in ‘all means at our disposal being used to collect the debt, including offsetting, deducting, and denying eligibility for various benefits and payments.’

But residents are incensed, noting that many of the families at the site are in very bad financial situations: They have eaten through their compensation payments or suffered other reversals, including losing money to dishonest contractors, and thus have no way to obtain other housing – or pay rent. Moreover, a new town called Be’er Ganim, which is finally being built for several hundred of the residents, is nowhere near fit for habitation.

‘We have no intention of paying,’ said community secretary Aviel Eliaz. ‘This is a disgrace. For four years we’ve been screaming that many families have no money to move into permanent homes. The solution is in the few million shekels that the Tenufa Administration refuses to give the residents.’

The government decision to terminate compensation claims comes after the Prime Minister’s office gave the ex-settlers notice over a year ago and a $85 million agreement, including grants to purchase land. At the time the ex-settlers set-up a protest tent in their town of Nitzam in Southern Israel near the border with Gaza, where their caravans have been parked in a temporary relocation plan. “Only the pressure groups suckling at the government teat received their lustful share while abandoning weaker populations. We are sorry for the community leaders who were led astray and failed to notice they were surrounded by a web of deceit,” said community representatives Aviel Eliaz and Dror Tanami in 2011  to Ynet News.

The ex-settlers seem to be taking their place among the rest of Israel’s poor who have seen state benefits dwindle as West Bank settlement budgets boom. “In the years 2000 to 2006, the average per capita grant in the settlements in the West Bank was approximately 57 percent higher than the average per capita grant in authorities inside Israel,” reported B’tselem on January 1, 2013. And the trend doesn’t seem to be abating as the budget for West Bank settlements doubled in 2012.  Over twenty years ago Israel stopped building traditional public housing at the same time investments in outpost in the West Bank continued. Then in 2002 welfare programs were slashed, including the elimination of Israel’s food stamps program. To any traveler who visits Southern Tel Aviv, the disparities in wealth are obvious. Rows of houses with tin-roof patches are squished together mere kilometers from the wealth of beach front properties and the tourist-beloved cafe life.

In hard numbers, 24 percent of Israeli citizens live under the poverty rate. Israel also ranks second behind Mexico for the highest rate of inequality, or Gini Index, for OECD countries. But even amongst Israel’s poorest benefits are not given out based on need alone. Israel has fashioned a system of geographical-based need, called National Priority Areas: Area A, B, and C. According to B’tselem most of the West Bank settlements are in either National Priority Area A or B (not to be confused with the security administrative districts of the West Bank that are also labeled A, B, and C). In 2009 Saeb Erekat called the plan a “blueprint for future settlement expansion,” noting the housing subsidies shuffled low-income Jewish Israels from inside of the 1967 borders to occupied Palestinian territory.

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Settlers/Colonists

{ 16 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. pabelmont says:

    Be fun to enlist Israel’s poor in pro-Palestinianism (you know, stop wasting state funds on settlements that will have to be abandoned anyway) but unlikely to work with zealous settlers however poor, especially as used to receiving those funds.

  2. American says:

    So these are the illegal settlers who were moved from their illegal Gaza outposts and have been living rent free for 7 years?
    It’s hard for me to work up much sympathy for them considering they took part in a welfare system to illegally settle Palestine land.

    No honor among theives–they should have thought about that.
    All of Israel’s state supported settlers should think about that.

    When and if Israel’s loses it’s settlements what will it do with all it’s settlers then?
    It’s hard to conceive of the hubris behind pouring billions of dollars into a enterprise illegal under all international laws and sure to be condemned eventually by the world.
    Maybe they will get away with most of it and maybe they won’t….if they don’t then at least maybe the Palestines and the Palestine refugees will end up benefiting a bit from Israel’s housing construction on their land.

    • Boston says:

      “When and if Israel’s loses it’s settlements what will it do with all it’s settlers then?”

      What do you think? The American taxpayer will be tapped to pay for their resettlement costs. Just like now.

      • JennieS says:

        I just looked up the fate of Israeli settlements and settlers in Sinai in 1982. Compensation was paid to the settlers by Israel not the US, however the US did pay for the relocation of Israeli military installations. Needless to say relocating the military cost more than three times as much as relocating the settlers. What wonderful generous people you Americans are!
        link to washingtoninstitute.org

    • Mooser says:

      “When and if Israel’s loses it’s settlements what will it do with all it’s settlers then?”

      Simply say that since they are not on land which is even marginally Israel, they aren’t Israel’s responsibility, and disclaim them.
      Or they could invite them all to settle in Tel Aviv.

  3. during the j14 protest i was stunned no one seemed to be making the connection the occupation and settlement of palestine was ignored as a vital part of their financial woes. the state is addicted to growth like a junkie.

    • American says:

      Everything about Israel is bizarre…state supported religious groups that aren’t required to work for a living? ….basically ‘hiring’ people with welfare as settlers to settle land illegally?

      Then again the US is getting pretty bizaare itself..where is the agency that should be closing down these TV God Merchants that prey on gulliable people? I heard one the other day preaching that God will make them rich if they contribute this or that…really this is on the level on a con game….something nonreligious scams have been shut down for….there ought to be a law against this kind of preying on the simple minded.

      • seafoid says:

        Things about israel that appear bizarre are also probably financially unsustainable. 24/7 torah study doesn’t generate money for taxes. So most haredim depend on secular workers who pay tax . ISrael is just à collective of lobby groups fighting for handouts . There is no long term vision or direction.

  4. Avi_G. says:

    The headline gives readers the impression that the settlers were somehow wronged by the government.

  5. Chu says:

    The government will stop writing checks to these trailer park dwellers after 7-1/2 years of government subsidies. As American says so well – there’s no honour among thieves. If these welfare recipients were good schemers, they would relocate to Priority Area A.
    Use the system for what it’s worth, which apparently aint too much.

  6. seafoid says:

    Israel’s poor have no representation worth the name . Yesha takes precedence . The poor get shafted.
    The rabbis make sure there are no questions. It is obviously gds will that Israel is run on dog eat dog rules of capitalism .

    • Mooser says:

      “The rabbis make sure there are no questions.”

      How do they do that, Seafoid? I’ve always found Rabbis pretty easy to ignore. What power do Rabbi’s in Israel have?

      • seafoid says:

        Teachers , parents and rabbis keep the israelis in line . The moral vacuum that is the occupation would be impossible without the blessing of the religious establishment. All those hypocrites who advise on shabbat lifts in the settlements .Nobody decent has the balls to condemn them.

  7. ToivoS says:

    I don’t understand their problem. Why don’t they just move to the WB where they can qualify for more welfare payments?

    In any case what a bunch of pathetic losers. Hard to have any sympathy for a bunch of thieves that guessed wrong in what parcel to steal.

  8. a blah chick says:

    It’s their kids I feel sorry for, children don’t have a say in what their crazy parents do.

    I, too, must ask the same question: why didn’t the Israeli government simply move them to the West Bank? Does anyone know the reason for this?