Smotrich moving to give more funds, approval to West Bank settlements
Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich is pushing for both $180 million in new funding for settlements in the occupied West Bank, and legalisation of scores of settler outposts in the territories, according to reports.
Smotrich, who also controls a part of the defence ministry that administers settler affairs, will reportedly seek government approval for the funnelling of the money for 'supporting Israeli communities in the West Bank', The Times of Israel reported Friday.
The leader of the far-right Religious Zionist party is also advancing a plan to legalise 155 settler outposts throughout the West Bank, the Israeli news outlet said, citing a report by Channel 12.
Smotrich’s plan will focus first on legalising outposts in the northern and central West Bank before focusing on other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory.
It will also see the offices he controls in the finance and defence ministries to allocate millions in funding to outposts, in addition to building access roads to the communities and connecting them to the power and water grids, according to the Israeli news reports.
Israeli NGO Peace Now, which claimed to have received an advance copy of the funding proposal, said ($7.1 million) would be for illegal outposts, some of which are unauthorised expansions of existing settlements.
There would be funding to transform Israeli army bases in the West Bank into civilian settlements, Channel 12 reported.
There would also be funding to plan for construction in previously razed settlements in the northern West Bank, according to Channel 12.
Some of the money for the settlements will be shaved off of the budgets of interior and education ministries, Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported.
Smotrich was appointed to government by Benjamin Netanyahu, who became prime minister at the end of last year after elections.
He has repeatedly called for Israel to annex the West Bank, where hundreds of thousands of settlers live illegally.
Smotrich has also moved to cut funding for services for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The Palestinian Authority on Saturday slammed Smotrich's plans, highlighting international resolutions condemning illegal settlement activity.
“Attempts by Israeli occupation authorities and their extremist ministers to confer legitimacy upon any settlement established on the lands of the State of Palestine will not succeed. UN Security Council Resolution 2334 confirms that all settlements are illegal and violate international law, including those in East Jerusalem,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in a statement carried by the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
The spokesman urged the United State, Israel’s major ally, to prevent Smotrich’s plan from advancing, adding that Israel should face sanctions for its “apartheid” oppression of the Palestinians.