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Letter to Jody
Marcia Freedman, Israel
January 1, 2002
Let me try and answer the concerns about the Coalition of Women for Peace call for "Money to the Disabled, Not to the Settlements." You ask if we know for sure that money is being taken away from the disabled and redirected to the settlements. That is, I believe, the wrong question. The right question is, Is there money directed toward/spent on the settlements that is a drain on the budget and therefore leaves very little for all those in real need within the Green Line and over it?
The answer is that all settlers, regardless of need, receive a 7% income tax break. All settlers, regardless of need, can purchase a villa or large apartment with a down payment of NIS 10,000 and very easy mortgage terms. All settlers receive all sorts of discounts on childcare, school fees and all the other expenses that nonsettlers have to take care of from their salaries. All of these hatavot are financed with government funds, i.e, money that we all pay in taxes. No one really knows how much this all adds up to, because there is no breakdown of what is spent on settlers and/or what their discounts and low-interest mortgages cost the government.
But that is just the beginning of it. Because if you add in the enormous amounts of money spent to try and keep the settlers safe—by-pass roads, military installations, arms for the settlers, special transportation arrangements, and more—this is an enormous drain on the budget of the State of Israel.
And what is this money being spent for? Are these genuine security concerns of the state of Israel, and is it therefore a good expenditure of taxpayer funds?
I don't think so. The goal of the settlement movement was not to make Israel (and ordinary Israelis) safer. It is and has always been an ideological goal—to realize the vision of the Greater Land of Israel, a vision shared only by 40% of the settlers themselves (the rest, according to polls, would return home behind the Green Line if they could afford to), and probably even less of the general population of Israel. This is the vision of religious nationalists and Jabotinsky nationalists (of whom Arik Sharon is a perfect example)—that is, it is a minority vision of what is good for the Jewish people in the state of Israel (and in the world). But it is a vision that we are all paying for.
Had there never been a settler movement, had they never been allowed to stay and to grow from hundreds into 200,000, we would very like have peace by now, Ytzhak Rabin would very likely be alive, the economy would be suffering the same strains that the world economy is facing, but nothing so critical that we are required to undermine the safety net that supports the disabled, old people, single parents, unemployed people, and so on.
Now that there are more than 120 settlements and 200,000 settlers, does it make sense to say, "well, we're stuck with them, and so it's okay to be spending all that money to keep them safe"? I don't think so. I say, let's spend whatever we need to bring them back within the Green Line, clearing the way for a peace settlement with the Palestinians based on the 1967 borders, and let's get on with our lives in relative security and well-being for all of us.
This is a relatively long answer to your short question, but I hope that it makes some sense to you.
Marcia Freedman is a former Israeli Knesset member and longtime peace activist.