Jerusalem, March 31: The Israeli parliament’s finance committee approved Sunday 177 million shekels ($50 million) for the Settlement Division, a controversial body which bolsters the settlements in the occupied West Bank, Xinhua reported.
Part of the World Zionist Organisation, the Settlement Division has served over the past years as the government’s operational arm for construction and development in the settlements as well as in Israel.
Of the approved budget, 8.5 million shekels (about $2.5 million) were earmarked for an unspecified purpose in the Mount Hebron area in the southern West Bank.
An additional 57 million shekels ($16.5 million) were budgeted to the headquarters of the Settlement Division. Some 29 million shekels ($8.4 million) were allocated to complete the compensation to the Gush Katif settlers who were evicted in 2004 as part of Israel’s Disengagement Plan from Gaza.
Israel seized the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast War. The Jewish settlements there are considered by international law as illegal.
The settlement issue tops the US-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians which restarted last summer after a three-year halt over Israel’s construction in the West Bank.
The peace talks are on the verge of collapse as Israel announced last week it will not release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners who were scheduled to be freed over the weekend.