Not long ago, the large settlement which is now at the heart of the controversy over the refusal of Israeli theater actors to perform in its new auditorium, tried to prove in court that officially, it lies outside Israel, and therefore should be exempted from paying VAT
Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) was present this week at the opening of the new theater hall at the settlement of Ariel. A couple of months ago, several Israeli theater artist declared their refusal to perform in Ariel, which sits deep in the Palestinian territories, some 15 miles east of the Green Line.
Livnat and other rightwing figures believe that Ariel is a part of Israel, and as so, its people are entitled to the same services other citizens receive. “Ariel is like any other community in Israel,” said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud). The Culture Minister went even further and declared that the state would stop supporting theaters and artists who refuse to perform in any place in Israel, including the Occupied Territories.
Similar arguments were recently made by Israeli officials to explain the construction of hundreds of new housing units in Ariel.
But just a few years ago, it was the municipality of Ariel itself declaring that it is not a part of Israel, and even trying to prove it in court.
In December 2007, the Petach Tikva court of appeals issued a ruling (Hebrew) in the case of the municipality of Ariel vs. the State of Israel. In its appeal, the municipality demanded to be exempted from paying VAT to the state; its argument was that the settlement doesn’t fall under the legal category of an ‘Israeli citizen’ or ‘An Israeli resident’, and therefore cannot be required to pay VAT.
Alternatively, Ariel demanded to be exempted from paying taxes over the work of its Palestinian employees.
The Petach Tikva court ruled in favor of the state, and Ariel was required to pay its taxes.
The 2007 case shows again how Israel is trying to have it both ways in the West Bank: claim it as its own territory and reject all efforts to limit or question its actions there – and at the same time, never formally recognize it as a part of the state (that’s the loophole the municipality of Ariel was trying to use), since that would reveal the fact that there are 2.5 million people without rights within this territory, thus officially labeling Israel as an Apartheid state.
In 2007 the Petach Tikva court decided that for tax purposes, Ariel is a part of Israel. At the same time, many Israelis who have factories or businesses in the West Bank don’t pay their Palestinian workers minimum wage, claiming – as one company did before court a couple of months ago – that they are operating “outside Israel” and are subject to Jordanian regulations.
If Ariel and other settlements are indeed part of Israel – isn’t it time that their Palestinian neighbors and workers will have full rights as well?