In contrast with its claims in recent months that it is part of the state of Israel and should be treated as such, the municipal government of the settlement of Ariel has been shown to have argued the exact opposite, in 2001, in order to avoid paying VAT (value added tax) taxes to the state.The documents uncovered by Israeli reporters with the Ha’aretz newspaper show that Ariel’s leaders filed a petition to the Israeli government in 2001 demanding the return of past VAT taxes, claiming that since Ariel was not a part of Israel, it did not have to pay these taxes.

The settlement of Ariel is the largest settlement in the West Bank, consisting of over 50,000 Israeli settlers. It was constructed on stolen Palestinian land far beyond the 1967 armistice line known as the ‘Green Line’, and its construction, along with all other Israeli settlements, are considered illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of civilian populations onto land occupied by military force.

When the Israeli court ruled on the Ariel petition, the judges said that Ariel’s attempt to avoid paying taxes was ‘hardly appropriate,’ given that the settlement is ‘nourished by state funding and accepts the laws of the state, seeking the state’s protection by means of the security fence.’

Israeli Knesset (Parliament) member Nitzan Horowitz criticized the Ariel municipality for claiming to be part of Israel, but ‘when it comes to taxes Ariel has to pay, then it’s not in Israel. It seems the truth in Ariel is highly flexible.’

The status of Ariel has recently reached the Israeli public due to a cultural center that was recently opened in the settlement, but was boycotted by dozens of prominent Israeli actors and theatre professionals who refused to perform in a settlement constructed on stolen Palestinian land.

During the public debate on the issue, Ariel’s mayor Ron Nachman has repeatedly stated that Ariel is a part of Israel – despite its location on Palestinian land far beyond the recognized border – but the new revelations that Ariel tried to get out of paying taxes by claiming it was not part of Israel calls that claim into question.