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Report: Israel Spends $560M on Settlers

September 23, 2003

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Israeli government spends at least $560 million a year on subsidies, infrastructure and education for 220,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to a report Tuesday in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The figure does not include military spending in those areas.

Since capturing the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel has spent at least $10.1 billion on settlements, Haaretz said.

Successive Israeli governments have refused to disclose how much they spend on settlements. Haaretz said it compiled the figure after three months of research, including interviews with dozens of government officials and experts.

The settlements are seen as one barrier to reaching a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians say Israel uses the settlements to grab lands claimed for a Palestinian state.

The number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip hit 220,000 last year, an increase of 5.7 percent from 2001, according to a report released Tuesday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The settlers’ growth rate far outstripped the total Israeli growth rate of 1.6 percent and was more than double the growth rate in any region of Israel, according to the report.

Nearly 5,000 of the 12,000 new settlers moved into the settlements from Israel or other countries. The remainder of the growth was attributed to new births.

Palestinians say continued building in the settlements is proof Israel is not committed to peace.

Spending on settlers and settlements also has become a tense issue in Israel, which is suffering from a deep economic crisis. Over the past three years, Israeli salaries have plummeted more than 10 percent and unemployment is approaching 11 percent.

According to the Haaretz report, the amount of money spent on the settlements amounted to more than $2,200 per person.

The money included spending on roads, housing, electricity, education and recently canceled tax breaks for settlers, according to the newspaper.

The spending on the settlements equals more than 1 percent of the total Israeli budget of $48.7 billion.

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