A new study by the Macro Center for Political Economics has revealed that West Bank settlements are currently worth $18.8 billion, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
The formerly state-funded center, for which the Netanyahu government cut off funding, filed a first report on the monetary worth of West Bank settlements three years ago in order to assess the amount the state may have to pay settlers in the event they are evacuated as part of a peace accord with the Palestinians.
A source from former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government told Yedioth that the report was indeed passed on to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.
The Prime Minister's Office confirmed, however, that it was not funding the Macro Center, which it said receives budgeting from "state-run agencies in Europe that have an interest in the Middle East".
It is no coincidence that the new report was released so soon after US President Barack Obama called for a return to the 1967 borders, according to Dr. Roby Nathanson, who runs the center.
"I plan to personally send the new report to Netanyahu because I believe it is especially important these days," he told Yedioth.
The Macro Center's report, which covers West Bank settlements but not illegal outposts, claims to have evaluated all of the Jewish homes located beyond the 1967 borders.
The report found a significant increase in the settlements' monetary worth due to expansion. It claims that in 2004 settlements were worth $12,649,111,231, a sum that rose to $18,793,513,125 by May 2011.
The report lists four settlement blocs as cities – Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, Beitar Elite and Modi'in Elite – and finds Ma'aleh Adumim, largest in size and population, the most expensive city in the West Bank. It is currently worth just a little under $2 billion. Some of the smaller settlements, such as Ofra and Ali, are estimated at about $200 million.
Dr. Nathanson says his center relies on various sources from government offices to settlement websites.
"The way in which Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 led to the conclusion that more professional tools are required for decision-makers to properly plan such moves, which includes the evacuation of settlements," he said.
"We were asked to perform research on the efficiency of the 'evacuation-compensation' law to be offered to settlers and collect data to assess what we are actually ceding."
But Nathanson says most of the populated settlements are located west of the separation fence that runs through much of the West Bank, though the Netanyahu government attempts to promote construction east of the fence as well, in his opinion.
"Even the settlers realize that in the event of a peace agreement there will be land swaps, and that the area around Jerusalem as well as Gush Etzion and Ariel will probably be included (in Israel's territory)," he said.
Ofer Petersburg contributed to this report