Israeli government’s priority: settlements.

Every now and then I like to remind people that the occupation is a real thing that actually exists in the lives of real people. On Monday, Israel reminded us why:

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz last week signed the government’s new national priority list, which grants housing and development benefits to some 660 communities….

The new national priority list includes 87 West Bank settlements out of a total of 131 settlements. Some of these communities belong to the large settlements blocs, such as Ariel and Efrat, which have a relatively high social-economic ranking, and others are isolated communities like Yitzhar, Itamar and Elon Moreh.

In total, settlements make up 13 percent of the list, while settlers make up just 4 percent of Israel’s population.

As Ynet so delicately puts it: “the government appears to be encouraging Israelis to purchase lands in settlements like Beit El, Tapuach, Ofra and Eli”—the very thing that the government has long encouraged Israelis to do, via perks such as state subsidized mortgages, extra education budgets, and superior infrastructure funding.

It’s important to remember here that Ofra was built illegally even by Israeli standards, and whole sections of Beit El sit on land stolen from private Palestinian owners—and that these two examples are hardly exceptions to the rule. The occupation (a real thing that actually exists in the lives of real people) is a tool wielded by successive Israeli governments to protect the country’s investment in the settlement enterprise, an enterprise rooted in and shaped by lawlessness.

“On the other hand,” Ynet reports,

the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi, which were hit by hundreds of Hamas rockets in the recent round of fighting in Gaza, have been excluded from the list despite their relatively low social-economic ranking.

Other communities excluded from the list include Lod, which was the subject of a scathing state comptroller report, Ramla, Kiryat Gat and Beit Shemesh, which has an even lower social-economic ranking.

…Ephraim Mishal, who is running for the position of Kiryat Malachi mayor, added: “What more has to happen in our city for the government to include us in its aid programs. A lot of blood has been shed, and the government is conveying a message that we are not on its list of priorities.”

Indeed. Not on its list of priorities, and apparently not likely to be in the near future. Unless and until rockets start to fall again (which, in the absence of a two-state peace, seems a forgone conclusion, even to Israelis who lived through the last war), a two-state peace made increasingly impossible by the on-going settlement enterprise.

If the people of Lod and Kiryat Malachi want to see their problems genuinely addressed, they’ll have to start in Ofra and Beit El.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

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