Government grants settlements NIS 40 million for security, first-aid

PMO denies allocation has anything to do with Netanyahu’s sit-down with national religious rabbis a day earlier, in which he asked for support amid corruption allegations

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Yesha Council leaders at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Yesha Council leaders at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Government ministers approved a NIS 40 million ($11.5 million) grant for Israeli local and regional councils in the West Bank on Wednesday.

The vast majority of the grant will go toward “special expenses related to the security situation” in the Israeli settlements, and NIS 5.5 million will be used to bolster medical emergency stations throughout the West Bank.

The Yesha settlement umbrella council spokesman Yigal Dilmoni told The Times of Israel that the allocation is an annual grant that Israeli local and regional councils receive each year. He added that the amount is nearly identical to what they received in 2016.

The grant was approved in a cabinet vote that took place over the telephone. It came just one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a group of prominent national religious rabbis — many of them settlers themselves — to request their support as he battles corruption allegations.

Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Rabbi Haim Druckman at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 8, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

The Prime Minister’s Office flatly denied any connection between the approved grant and Netanyahu’s meeting the day prior. “This is an annual proposal that passes towards the end of every budget year,” it said in a Wednesday statement.

For his part, Dilmoni added that “the issue [of the grant] was never even raised in yesterday’s meeting,” Dilmoni added.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Netanyahu took aim at the weekly anti-corruption protests in Tel Aviv calling for his resignation, saying they were part of a broader effort to topple him.

The prime minister is currently being investigated in two criminal investigations involving suspicions he accepted gifts and favors from businessmen in exchange for advancing their interests. Police are expected to submit their recommendations in the cases in the coming weeks.

While a number of rabbis voiced their support for Netanyahu and dismissed the corruption allegations, others criticized the prime minister for only reaching out when he is “in trouble” and ignoring them when the scenario is reversed.

The rabbis raised a number of issues they want to see addressed, among them preventing the integration of women in military combat units and stepped-up construction in West Bank settlements, the Haaretz daily reported.

The Peace Now settlement watchdog did not accept the denials by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Yesha Council. “Corruption has a price tag,” the left-wing NGO said in a statement. “Netanyahu is a weak prime minister and blackmailer who is willing to sell the future of Israel in order to survive.”

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