Though the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instituted an unprecedented 10 month building freeze in Judea and Samaria due to pressure by the US beginning in November 2009, an Israeli business newspaper report shows that financial support for Jewish communities leaped a whopping 38% the following year.
According to the report by Israel’s Calcalist newspaper, the Israeli government invested NIS 10 billion in Jewish life in the biblical heartland to the north and south of Jerusalem between 2003 and 2011. This amount includes the total government investment: financial support to local authorities, cross-investment in infrastructure and lost revenue to the state as a result of tax benefits. In fact, this amount should include all but defense spending on security in the communities, information about which has not been released to the public.
Under Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, government investment in Judea and Samaria reached perhaps its largest levels, with the government in 1993 earmarking 60%of its NIS 2.5 million Judea and Samaria budget on construction alone. The funding was distributed the same year as the signing of the Oslo Accords.
From 1994-1997, investment took a hit, with governmental investment dropping to just over 1.5 billion annually, and then rose again in 2003 to 2.1 billion, only to begin sinking again.
In 2005, with the announcement of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from the Jewish Gush Katif communities of Gaza, funding took a nose dive. For the next four years, during the term of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, residents of Judea and Samaria saw a paltry NIS 805 million per year put back into their towns.
Following the second inauguration of Prime Minister Netanyahu, funding to Judea and Samaria began to rise again. In 2010, an additional 41 million shekels was added to the budget for the region, then an additional NIS 254 million in 2011, an increase of 38% in a year when the whole government budget was raised by just 2.7%, and a return to the levels of investment made prior to the Gaza withdrawal.
According to the report, the education budget for Judea and Samaria grew 272% from 2003 to 2011, and the Yesha Council – an umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – stated that the number of Jews in the communities grew by 5% every one of those years, with 345 to 360 thousand Jews living in the region, not including eastern Jerusalem. The Yesha Council was quoted as saying that in the Binyamin Regional Council alone, infrastructure, schools and transportation were needed for an additional 10-15% growth in the number of children entering the first grade.
An official of the organization praised the government for creating a more positive atmosphere in regard to Judea and Samaria, but said that the region received no special benefits other than a reduced cost of public transportation.
While some say the Prime Minister Netanyahu’s personal politics are responsible for the increase in budget numbers, others note that the 18 percent growth Judea and Samaria has experienced in the last three years is attributable to the high birth rate, and say the increase in budget is commensurate with the needs of the growing population.
In 2010, Haaretz reported that security sources publicized 28 incidents of building freeze violations, just 4 months into the measure, including in Tekoa, Psago, Emanuel, Kedumim, Beitar Illit, Maale Adumim and Kfar Etzion. Radical anti-Judea and Samaria development group Peace Now alleged that building on 600 new homes was begun in over 60 communities, a little over what would be built if the freeze had not been instituted.
That same month, MK Danny Danon of the prime minister’s Likud party initiated a bill to compensate residents of Judea and Samaria who suffered losses as a result of the construction freeze.
Though funding for Judea and Samaria is less than half of what it was under Prime Minister Rabin, and given the controversial settlement between the Netanyahu government and the residents of the Ulpana in Beit El, in which residents agreed to peacefully leave their homes the Ulpana mountain in exchange for the promise of 300 new homes in the town following a court case asserting Palestinian ownership of the Ulpana land in the Supreme Court, many view the administration of Netanyahu as pro-Judea and Samaria. Under his watch, the college in the Samarian city of Ariel received university status, and the Edmund Levy report was celebrated as a major victory in the battle to assert full Israeli sovereignty in all areas in which Israelis make their homes, including Judea, Samaria, and the Golan.