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It doesn't matter how much the occupation costs

I have so many things I want to write about, and so little time. Day jobs… you gotta hate ’em.

I particularly want to write about #J14, about the escalation in the south, and a zillion other things. Inshallah I’ll find the time.

But one thing has been on my mind lately that I need to get off my chest, before I lose it: The cost of the occupation.

Every once in a while you’ll hear someone say that the occupation costs us so much money. Money that could have gone to health, education, infrastructure and whatever.

Well, the question in itself is, how to say….     stupid. For two reasons:

1) Corporate capitalism – Even if there was no occupation to fund, the money Israel would “save” would never trickle down to the middle class, to the 99%. Why? Because corporate capitalism wouldn’t let it. It would still stay on top, with all the tycoons. It would just be more for them to enjoy.

I’ve heard that the occupation cost 100 billion shekels since it began. Just recently, the Adva Institute published a report on the burden of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with similar numbers. It said that “between 1989 and 2011, the Ministry of Defense received budget increments totaling NIS 48 billion (2010 prices) earmarked for the conflict with the Palestinians”.  So, that’s just over 2billion shekels a year. A lot of money, you say? I don’t.

Why? Because what Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz did just this week is a perfect example of how corporate capitalism dwarfs those numbers. Steinitz, without any public debate on this move, decided to give tax benefits worth 20-36 billion shekels to the biggest international corporations.  Just like that. In one day. All he used was his pen to sign the order.

2) Morality – This is more important. Much more.

You see, it doesn’t matter how much the occupation costs. It doesn’t matter whether it costs 1 billion shekels a year, 10 billion a year or only 20 shekels a year.

It doesn’t matter, because it’s just wrong. You don’t calculate how much it costs to commit a crime. You just stop committing the crime, for Christ’s sake!

Asking how much the occupation costs is like a bank robber asking how much the gas cost to get to the bank.

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    COMMENTS

    1. jmpl

      Your points are very well taken. Particularly #2.

      But regardless of how financially costly the occupation may or may not be to Israel in some regards, the overall benefits must outweigh the costs, at least for some pretty powerful people. Right? Otherwise the immoral occupation wouldn’t have been sustained and supported for so many years.

      Reply to Comment
    2. I wonder if Israel is much of a “normal” parliamentary democracy. So much direct control is given to the Administration (Ministers) as the acting arm of the Knesset that, from my very afar sight, there seems little legislative check on decisions. The UK’s Commons, while appointing the government, can and does rebell at State decisions. As I have conjectured before, Israel seems to be in a perpetual war council, never really leaving the tenor of its first, war, Knesset. So when you say the occupation is just wrong no matter its cost, you are attacking the very (derived) foundation of political process.
      .
      When I hear talk of Israel’s “unwritten constitution,” I think of various groups aligning against a greater enemy. The “constitution” consists of how far any one group can go when impinging on the activity of the other groups (a real question amongst allies during war). Now that the enemy has been contained, “constitutional process” is redirected to how the various groups in the war coalition can make a buck. Election from party lists locks in this effect, as only the war groups exist. District election of actual candidates would augment the possibility of rebellion within groups, potentially changing the whole “constitutional” game over time.
      .
      All useless conjecture.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Aaron

      Reason number two is correct, in that if the occupation is morally wrong then it doesn’t matter how much it costs. But a lot of Israelis who don’t like the occupation don’t believe that it’s intrinsically wrong. These people (I’m not one of them) believe that Israel has a moral, historical right to perpetual jurisdiction over Judea and Samaria, and maybe over Gaza, too. So for these people, ending the occupation means giving up something that’s rightfully Israel’s. They want to do so because they believe that’s in Israel’s interest, in spite of Israel’s moral right. You address your audience where they’re standing.

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    4. Philos

      Hi Ami, I am in Peace Now and this is the angle that is being taken by the organization now (not without opposition within the group) because it is felt that nobody in Israel wants to hear or cares about the morality of the occupation. I am inclined to agree. PN has been pursuing the morality route futility, then the legal route which resulted in the 1 for 2 result in Migron, and now this which will probably also fail. Frankly, I don’t think anything can shake the stupor out of the Israeli people except for massive American or European trade sanctions. It’s the only way. Frankly, I don’t know why I even bother with Peace Now anymore… but that’s a personal discussion to be had with me, myself and I.

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    5. Richard Witty

      The path is clear and defined. It needs to be pursued.

      That is that ultimate political solution is a two-state solution. There is no plausible way of achieving a viable single state in which a likely majority would perceive of themselves as NOT self-governing.

      The urgency of addressing Palestinian concerns is often sited as the reason for advocating for a single state, that that is far far far more distant.

      The path forward originates in acceptance of Israel (not of Palestine, per Hamas declarations), at the green line (or genuinely consented boundaries).

      Any declaration that is short of that acceptance, is a non-starter. (The “Jewish state” language is not necessary, but “we accept Israel as Israel” is necessary.)

      From there, the tangible questions are doable. Borders are doable through a few options. Right of return affirmed not through the odd interpretation of the Geneva conventions, but through title law and residency that follows title are doable. Administration and security in Jerusalem is doable.

      But, the prerequisite never goes away. Any other prospect is either a temporary armistice, or a deception.

      That too many on the left have given up on this, makes any resolution that much more distant.

      Reply to Comment
    6. AYLA

      @Philos–interesting to hear that from inside Peace Now. It certainly seems like a tactic to me, vs. anyone’s actual primary reason for being against the Occupation. Specifically, it seems like a tactic to try to harness the energy of J14 toward–in part–to take a stand against the occupation. @Ami, you and I don’t agree on this, historically, but I’d still like to see the connection–however disingenuous–succeed, especially because J14 needs this connection to strengthen its moral center. Yes, Israel can have domestic, social concerns that are separate from the occupation. Yes, the more important reasons to oppose the occupation are not economic (especially for israel). but masses of Israelis have taken to the streets, and everything actually is connected, and I never thought I’d see these demonstrations happen, so a girl can dream bigger, now.

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    7. @ayla – we disagree on whether J14 should talk about the occupation. but this post is about something else: is it really that expensive, compared to corporate capitalism – and should the question even be asked. The answer is no to both (and i think you might agree with that, especially since figures in my post and most anywhere will prove it).
      .
      As for the moral issue of connecting J14 to occupation, well… that’s for another post (similar to what I wrote last year)

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    8. sh

      Israel would have stopped being an occupying force years ago if it thought the wrongness of the occupation outweighed the wrongness of what Israelis perceive as Palestinian belligerence towards them. The public has been persuaded by government, media and their education that Israel has no choice. Relatively liberal people will tell you how unavoidable the occupation is as long as the Palestinians have no reliable leadership or as long as Islamists keep getting elected in our neighboring countries or as long as we’re getting rockets in Sderot or as long as Zionism equals racism in the eyes of the world. That’s why providing facts and figures is necessary. What Aaron says about the importance of addressing your audience where they’re standing is unfortunately true.

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    9. @sh – I agree. Also, a wonderful example is just this weekend, when Daphni Leef was beaten, over 15 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. But what brought Tel Avivians out to the streets? I don’t believe in trying to change this ridiculous outcome. I believe in trying to show the world that these are the true colors of Israel: they couldn’t give a flying fuck about Palestinians.

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    10. AYLA

      @Ami–okay. I’m on your page. Also Richard’s post made me look up and laugh: “Summer Israel Family Adventure: Rappel, Jeep, Climb, Hike, Cave, Shomer Shabbat”.
      *
      Regardless of facts and figures, though they’re interesting and I thank you for them, I strongly suspect that there’s a direct way in which the occupation is costing Israel in other areas of social services, health, education, etc. Maybe not shekel to shekel, but energy-wise. To be a bit more concrete, I’d say that as long as security trumps everything else politically, we’re screwed. Would there still be security issues if the occupation ended? Of course. Some would argue fewer, some would argue more, but of course. But in countries where security is not the main issue, the economy tends to trump everything else (as long as the economy is bad, you can’t get people to care about, say, education), so I’m for trying to make the correlation between the occupation and the economy from a strictly strategic perspective.

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    11. @ayla – aha! you’re hitting the nail on the head when you say “as long as security trumps everything else politically, we’re screwed”. Which is just what J14 is trying to change! J14 wants us to talk less about security, more about corporate capitalism, make us a normal country. But ironically, left-wingers (and you included, since we know you disagree with me:)) want to keep that old paradigm, for some odd reason, by linking it to the occupation. Which for Israelis is a security issue. That’s what must be understood. The average Israeli doesn’t see the conflict as a civil rights issue, but as a security one. You can argue whether that’s right or wrong of them, but that’s how it is.
      .
      So, to sum up, if you want to keep things the old way, the old fashioned left vs. right on security issues, sure – go ahead. Link J14 to the occupation. Let’s see how far that gets ya…

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    12. Richard Witty

      If some are concerned about morality primarily, wonderful. Work for a fair society, inter-communal issues, class issues.

      If some are concerned about costs primarily, wonderful. Work for optimally efficient political and social solutions.

      They are not inconsistent in the slightest.

      Don’t insist that any other adopt what you consider most important. In doing so they will violate their own sense of experience and priority.

      The way to achieve change is to make the better argument, and then to implement proposal in a manner that does not require comprehensive social revolution or anything resembling as any imposed thought conformity as a prerequisite.

      Please do what you can to make it possible for affinity, sympathy to occur, more than confrontation. It makes change much more widely, quickly, humanely.

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    13. Cortez

      ” Otherwise the immoral occupation wouldn’t have been sustained and supported for so many years.”
      Nope…the benefits never outweighed the cost…the elites/leaders/Israeli government could have approached the issue from a better way from the beginning. When the explicit premise behind the founding of a state is one exclusively for one conception of Jews and and the implicit premise is that it is only for Europeans…then you’re bound to have problems down the line especially when you’re in the Middle East. But it seriously didn’t have to be that way.

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    14. AYLA

      It’s true, I’m an old fashioned leftist ;). Totally get your argument. And love J14 for rising above left vs. right, and for the numbers they’re (we’re?) able to get to take to the street as a result. Generally, I believe in simultaneous truths, and in this case, yours and mine. We fiction writers are like that. Our questions, it seems, are both strategic, since I gather our hearts are in the same place. I will admit this: you know your audience better than I do.

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    15. max

      I understand that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed the tax benefit, after quite some debate (issue was raised several months ago – even I read about it) because he needs money, now, and the ‘frozen’ assets could have stayed frozen for many years and in the meantime damaging Israel’s ability to attract new investments.
      .
      As for the moral part, I’d argue that – right or wrong – many (most?) Israelis confront moral with long-term survival and survival wins.

      Reply to Comment