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How Much Do They Cost Us?

By Moshe Feiglin

Translated from an article written for Ma’ariv’s NRG website

When the spokespersons for the social protests engulfing Israel revive the clichés about the money that could have gone to housing wasted on the settlements, they evoke the poltergeist of classic anti-Semitism. The Jew is always to blame, and so is the settler.

Unfortunately, for over a decade the State hasn’t invested a shekel in the settlements. Not roads, not infrastructure and not development plans. Not only is there no state investment in the parts of the Land of Israel invaded by King Abdullah in 1948 (with the generous help of Britain) and liberated by the Israel Defense Forces 19 years later, but the State of Israel also absolutely blocks private investment and does not authorize any new construction there. In my community, three young families now share a divided house that used to house one family. Each family pays rent for its third equal to the rents paid in Israel’s center. The high rents are not the result of an authentic shortage similar to what people are complaining about in Tel Aviv: it is the result of deliberate policy. The only funds allocated to the municipalities over the Green Line are those earmarked for basic municipal functions such as upkeep of roads and sidewalks, transportation for students and the like. This is the same funding that all municipalities in Israel receive.

The building freeze in Judea and Samaria is one of the main causes (according to a study by Globes) of the housing shortage in Tel Aviv. Ending the building freeze is the only practical solution for quick and affordable housing near the business hubs in Israel’s center. It is the cheapest, quickest and most convenient solution for most Israelis. It is also the most just and moral thing to do. But radical leftist singer Aviv Gefen thinks that it is Abdullah who liberated and the IDF that occupied Judea and Samaria, concluding that the most logical and inexpensive solution is a waste of billions of shekels that if they were invested elsewhere, would drastically lower the price of housing in the entire country.

Last week, I was interviewed with MK Yitzchak Herzog on the Channel 2 morning show. We discussed the housing protests in a very amiable atmosphere. But near the end of our slot, Herzog couldn’t control himself and pulled the old genie out of the bottle: the “billions” going to the settlements at the expense of the development towns. I didn’t ask him about the missiles flying into the development towns in his merit and the merit of his cohorts who rammed Oslo down our collective throats. I didn’t want to raise the hate level.

“Do you have statistics?” I asked him in an attempt to keep the conversation businesslike. He didn’t, of course. But it wouldn’t have mattered even if he did. Because it is not the results of the investigation, but rather, who is investigating and who is being investigated that matters.

A person who talks about the billions going to the settlements is working on the assumption that the settlements are not legitimate and so, every shekel spent there is an exploitation of the tax payer. Likewise, a person who claims that all the State’s money is channeled into the yeshivas (schools of higher Torah learning) is working on the assumption that Torah study is an insignificant waste of time.

To me, the Oslo Accords were not legitimate. Besides the death, misery and existential danger that they have brought upon us, we are also paying for them to the tune of 10% of our nation budget; approximately 15 billion dollars a year.

In other words, it is easy to claim – and to back up with numbers – that Aviv Gefen and Yitzchak Herzog and every other leftist who supported and dragged us into Oslo cost us infinitely more than a settler or yeshiva student ever could. And by the way, the IDF Home Front is quietly drilling emergency evacuation of the public from Israel’s center to the only logical place that can safely accommodate them – Judea and Samaria. With G-d’s help, we will not have to implement those plans. But we must remember that due to “Palestinian” (in quotation marks because there is no such nation) intransigence, the Oslo Accords have not been fully implemented, the settlements still exist and in the eventuality of a chemical attack (G-d forbid) Aviv Gefen and MK Herzog and their families will have a place to which they can run.

I heard a leftist professor explain that all the State’s money goes to the religious and ultra-Orthodox. The professor, a senior liberal arts lecturer in one of Israel’s major universities, earns at least 30,000 NIS per month. As far as I am concerned, let him earn twice that. The problem is that he and his students cost the State at least five times the amount that their yeshiva counterparts cost.

With this fact in mind, how do they dare to criticize the yeshiva students? It’s simple: For the learned professor, liberal arts are a legitimate recipient of State investment (and I agree with him on that point) but Jewish studies are not. Despite the fact that the State invests miniscule sums on yeshiva students in proportion to what the professor and his students receive, they see those sums as nothing more than exploitation and waste.

I am not sure, by the way, that the State has to fund any of the students. But that is a different topic. Due to the fact that we still live under a centralized state, it would be best for us all to stop blaming each other. Who costs who how much and who is carrying the burden of whom is a matter of perspective that is decided in elections.

The social protests embody some very important authentic elements. It will all be lost if they become a platform for baseless hatred and reciprocal finger-pointing.

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