Israel to pump NIS 3.3 billion into massive settler security package

Money for re-armored buses, cameras and bypass roads to come from Transportation, Housing and Communications ministries, according to report

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

Fences, cell phone towers and water reseviors used by settlers in the West Bank, seen on November 29. 2006. (Illustrative photo: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)
Fences, cell phone towers and water reseviors used by settlers in the West Bank, seen on November 29. 2006. (Illustrative photo: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)

Israel will officially roll out a security package for West Bank settlers worth NIS 3.3 billion ($939 million) next month including major upgrades to roads, cameras and armored vehicles, a spokesman for Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman confirmed Tuesday.

The money will be distributed on a multi-year basis, but the unprecedented sum will come at the expense of the Transportation, Housing and Communications ministries, which Liberman is expected to approach for support.

According to a Tuesday Channel 2 report, the package will include the installation of security cameras along roads throughout the West Bank; the installation of cell phone towers to improve reception for settlers who may need to call for help; the paving of bypass roads around Palestinian towns and settlements to allow the populations to avoid each other; the bolstering of armored buses that travel through the West Bank; and broad security improvements for each settlement that will include security cameras, “smart fences” and sensors to warn of attempts to sneak into settlements.

The last several years have seen a number of cases in which Palestinian terrorists have sneaked into settlements, including an incident in July in which an assailant stabbed three members of a family to death in the settlement of Halamish.

Settler leaders were said to welcome the moves, but wanted them to be implemented immediately, before the 2019 budget is passed, Channel 2 said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman attends an event of his Yisrael Beytenu party in Jerusalem, September 13, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to pave additional bypass roads for settlers in the West Bank, even if it meant skimming funds from the budgets of all the ministries.

Speaking at a meeting with ministers from his Likud party, Netanyahu promised to promote a plan for the roads’ construction as soon as possible, an official close to the prime minister told The Times of Israel.

The comments were believed to be made in response to criticism from Likud ministers and settler leadership over what they perceive as insufficient settlement construction in the West Bank.

The bypass roads were left off the list of construction projects advanced this week by the Defense Ministry body that authorizes building in the West Bank.

The bypass roads create separate routes for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Settlers say these routes are integral for their safety, citing terror attacks that have taken place on roads that run through Palestinian villages. They also argue that they benefit all residents of the West Bank — Jewish and Arab alike — by reducing traffic congestion.

But opponents of these pathways call them discriminatory and argue that they lead to the establishment of illegal outposts that run along these new roads, which are sometimes paved on private Palestinian land.

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