Construction of the first new West Bank settlement approved in a quarter of a century has been halted just a month after building began due to lack of funds.
The Binyamin Regional Council had been bankrolling the building of the new settlement under the assumption that it would be compensated by the state, but said the government had not contributed, forcing it to stall the project.
“The council spent more than NIS 10 million ($3 million) of its own money. Since it was all used, and the money promised by the Defense Ministry did not arrive, work on the new settlement of Amichai was halted,” the council said in a statement.
On June 20, workers broke ground for Amichai, planned to house the 42 families evacuated from Amona in February after the High Court of Justice ruled that their outpost had been built on private Palestinian land.
The construction had been hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the fulfillment of a promise he made.
“Today, ground works began, as I promised, for the establishment of the new community for the residents of Amona. After decades, I have the privilege to be the prime minister who is building a new community in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu tweeted at the time, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.
היום החלו העבודות בשטח, כפי שהבטחתי, להקמת היישוב החדש למתיישבי עמונה. אחרי עשרות שנים, יש לי הזכות להיות רה״מ שבונה יישוב חדש ביו״ש pic.twitter.com/sNDKlDzaCu
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 20, 2017
Responding to the news of the halt in construction Tuesday, Amona representative Avichai Boaron said in a statement that the residents “are shocked and hurt by this failure.”
He added that the evacuees had been worried about the interference of left-wing NGOs in the settlement’s construction, but they “did not dream that bureaucracy would be preventing the establishment of the community.” Boaron called on the prime minister and the defense minister to immediately transfer the necessary funds.
Speaking with The Times of Israel Tuesday, Binyamin Regional Council Chairman Avi Roeh said the halt “had nothing to do with lack of willingness from the government.” While not specifying what steps the settlers would take if the construction was not restarted, Roeh predicted that the issue would be resolved in a matter of days.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu had instructed his chief of staff Yoav Horowitz to ensure the “immediate renewal” of Amichai’s construction.
Following the prime minister’s directive, Horowitz spoke with the directors-general of the defense, housing and other relevant ministries, with the goal of renewing the work as soon as possible, the statement said.