The cabinet approved a NIS 40 million ($11.5 million) budget to boost security in the settlements earlier this week after Environmental Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin edited out a clause in the decision stipulating that the funds be used for legal purposes only, the minister confirmed Wednesday.
The provision that Elkin ordered to strike read: “It shall be made clear to local authorities, to avoid any doubt, that these funds be used for lawful activity only.”
A former Justice Ministry official told Haaretz that the provision was drafted by former attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein nearly 15 years ago after it emerged that government funds to settlements were being used to bankroll illegal outposts.
In a statement confirming a Haaretz report, the minister argued that the clause was discriminatory as no such stipulation is made in other budgetary decisions passed by the cabinet.
“What would be written in Haaretz if a budget passed by the government for Arab localities in Israel included a clause that would limiting the funds for legal activity only?” Elkin wrote.
While most of the international community considers all settlement activity illegal, Israel differentiates between settlement homes built and permitted by the Defense Ministry on land owned by the state and outposts built without permits, often on private Palestinian land.
Officials in Israel have several times in recent decades chastised government ministries and local municipalities for using public money to fund wildcat outposts. This was the conclusion of a 2005 report commissioned by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in which the former head of the State Prosecutor’s Office Criminal Department Talia Sasson revealed that state bodies had been secretly diverting millions of shekels to West Bank outposts.
Last year, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira issued a report blasting the Binyamin Regional Council in the West Bank for using state funds to bankroll construction projects in illegal outposts, in cooperation with various government ministries, as well as the Jewish National Fund.
Responding to the Haaretz report, the Justice Ministry said Wednesday that it did not find it necessary to interfere in Elkin’s decision to scrap the clause as it’s self-evident that no illegal use is to be made of the state funds.