Even as Israeli-Palestinian talks are set to begin next week and deal with the
borders of a future Palestinian state, the cabinet on Sunday approved a new
national priorities map that includes a number of small settlements beyond the
The national priorities map lists communities eligible
for preferential treatment by various ministries, such as smaller classrooms,
enhanced budget for cultural programming and additional funds for security needs
not faced by other communities.
Government officials stressed that before
any West Bank settlement receives the affirmative action it is entitled to under
this plan, a second approval will be needed by the “political
Among the new settlements on the list are Rehalim and Bruchin
in Samaria, and Sansana and Negohot in the South Hebron Hills. Up until a few
months ago, these communities were considered illegal settlement outposts. Other
settlements new to the list are Hebron, Nofim, Geva Binyamin, Ma’aleh Michmash,
At the same time, a number of settlements that had been on
the list were removed, including the large haredi community of Betar Illit, the
well-established community of Efrat in Gush Etzion, and Kedar near Ma’aleh
Of the 600 communities on the list, some 90 are beyond the Green
Line, six more than on the national priority list approved in 2012.
list was drawn up based on a number of different criteria, including the
security situation in the community and in the area where it is located, the
economic situation in the particular community in relation to other locales, the
location of the community and distance from the center of the country, and how
close it is to a border.
Hatnua ministers Tzipi Livni and Amir Peretz
abstained in the vote on the new list but spoke out against including small,
isolated settlements on the list. Yesh Atid ministers Yael German and Yaakov
Peri also abstained. Fifteen ministers voted in favor.
Livni, who heads
Israel’s negotiation team with the Palestinians, and Economics Minister Naftali
Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), whose party champions the settlement enterprise, traded
barbed words in the cabinet over the decision.
Livni said she supported
giving budgetary preference to narrow the socioeconomic gaps in the country and
encourage settlements near the country’s “recognized” borders. But this list,
she said, was adopting new criteria that was designed to encourage settlement in
the West Bank.
Alluding to the fact that many of the new communities on
the list were nationalreligious communities identified with Bayit Yehudi, Livni
said that the national priority map was designed to promote national – not party
Bennett responded that settlement in Judea and Samaria
needed to be encouraged.
A statement put out by Hatnua said that the
party’s ministers abstained in the vote, rather than voting against, because the
list included a number of communities that deserved preferential treatment
either for security reasons, such as communities near the border, or due to
“I can understand that you put onto the list
settlements in Judea and Samaria that are part of the major settlement blocks,
and part of the areas that the government will retain in our hands,” said
Peretz. “But I don’t think it is the time diplomatically or from a socioeconomic
point of view to include and invest disproportionate sums in new settlements
that until recently were illegal, and regarding which it is doubtful whether
they will remain in Israel’s hands.”
He also raised objections that
Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat were left off the list because of their proximity
to the center of the country.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel
(Bayit Yehudi), however, dismissed Peretz’s criticism, saying that the decision
on which communities to include was made based on purely professional and
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi,
meanwhile, denounced the inclusion of settlements in the priority map as a
“confidence destruction measure.”
“While Palestine has cooperated with
international efforts to seek a two-state solution on the 1967 border, Israel is
responding once again by destroying the 1967 border and violating international
law,” Ashrawi said. “Israeli attempts to grab more Palestinian land and to
provide settlers with preferential treatment will not be
Ashrawi said “such criminal acts must be met with strong
Statistics provided to the cabinet as part of the
information package on the priority map showed that, as of January 1, 2012,
there were 325,500 Jews living in Judea and Samaria, with the exception of east
Jerusalem. This represented some 4.2 percent of the country’s
The figures also showed that some 43,000 people live on the
Golan Heights. Although it was not stated in the documentation presented to the
cabinet, this figure is made up of 23,000 Jews and 20,000 Druse.
addition, 41% of the country lives in Tel Aviv and the central region, the area
from Gedera to Hadera. While Tel Aviv has a population density of some 7,522
people per square kilometer, that number drops dramatically to 79 people per
square kilometer in the South, and 37 people per square kilometer on the Golan.