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Gov't makes land cheaper in 667 locations
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
01/01/2013
New grants toward land purchases now available in 87 West Bank settlements, drawing ire of Left.
 
New grants toward buying land are now available in 667 Israeli communities – including 87 West Bank settlements – on the national priority map.

The Housing and Construction Ministry and the Israel Lands Authority prepared the list of communities, which constitutes an amended version of the 2009 national priority map. It was then passed onto the Treasury.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz signed the map, in a move that is necessary to free up the grant money, which can significantly reduce the cost of land.

The intent is to assist communities located in the periphery, as well as those in the line of fire or with a poor population.

The amended list created a political storm when some southern communities, such as Ashkelon and Kiryat Malachi, which are within range of Gazan rockets, were not included.

MK Amir Peretz, who is running for the Knesset as part of The Tzipi Livni Party, attacked the map, and Steinitz, who is a member of the rival Likud, for signing it.

“It’s a stronger testament than a thousand witnesses to the government’s contempt for the entire periphery area, and especially for the southern cities that were under missile attack [in November],” Peretz said.

He further charged that the map encouraged young couples to move to the West Bank.

Peace Now similarly slammed the list. It offers more evidence of continued government support for West Bank settlement development, the organization’s Hagit Ofran said. It is hard to understand how the placement of settlements on the national priority list go along with the government’s support for a two-state solution, she said.

Peace Now said the average wage of people living in West Bank settlements on the list was higher than in some communities with the pre-1967 lines that had been left off the list.

According to Peace Now, in 2009, the average monthly salary in the Efrat settlement, which is on the list, was NIS 7,969, compared with the average salary in Ashkelon in that same year, which was NIS 5,645.

Efrat Council head Oded Revivi accused Peace Now of “dumbing down” the issue, saying that placement on the list was dependent on many factors, including security, transportation and the municipality’s financial assets.

He noted that Efrat, for example, lacked an industrial zone and unlike communities within the Green Line, could not raise the same level of funds from abroad, because many major Diaspora organizations do not fund communities over the pre-1967 armistice lines.

Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said the two issues should not be confused.

Deserving southern cities that were omitted should be included, he said.

But that has nothing to do with the communities of Judea and Samaria that deserved to be on the list, Dayan said.

Attacks against the inclusion of Judea and Samaria on the national priority map are “demagoguery,” and “political manipulation of the lowest standard,” he said.
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