Efrat settlement, West Bank.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The government on Sunday approved an allocation of some NIS 74 million to the settlements in light of the rise in attacks in Judea and Samaria that has caused increased security challenges and hurt businesses.
“Today, the cabinet will discuss an assistance plan to strengthen communities in Judea and Samaria,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of the weekly meeting.
“This entails the work of many ministries on behalf of the residents there and will – inter alia – strengthen security, assist small businesses and encourage tourism.”
The NIS 74m. will include NIS 15m. from the Interior Ministry, NIS 10m. from the Agriculture Ministry, NIS 12m. from the Health Ministry, NIS 6m. from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, and NIS 5.5m. from the Tourism Ministry. The rest of the sum will be provided by various other ministries.
The resolution noted that the NIS 12m. from the Health Ministry will be spent on creating centers to provide psychological support services in the settlements. The basis for the additional funds is the difficult security situation in Judea and Samaria.
“According to information provided by the security establishment, from the beginning of the current wave of terrorism, attacks and attempted attacks are taking place on a regular basis, exceptional in terms of the situation in the region before the current wave of terrorism, and also in relation to other regions in the country.”
The resolution notes that there are gaps between both the quantity and “quality” of the attacks taking place in Judea and Samaria, and other parts of the country, including Jerusalem. There has been a significant increase in the number of people requesting psychological and sociological help as a result of the wave of terrorism and in the types of requests from children and youth who have been affected by attacks.
“The changes in the security situation in Judea and Samaria impact on the ability to conduct normal life in the region and necessitate assistance in a number of areas – in addition to security – that will reduce the influence of the security situation and its impact on the daily lives of the residents, the business, and local authorities in the area,” the resolution read.
The reactions to the decision fell along predictable lines, with the Right applauding, and the Left protesting.
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich praised the decision, calling it an “important decision that reflects the government’s commitment to strengthening the settlements and their residents.”
Smotrich said that the resilience and perseverance of the settlers is a national interest that affects the whole of society.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Zionist Camp MK Amir Peretz criticized the allocation, saying that he wished the communities in the northern and southern peripheries would get similar funding.
Saying that he was not advocating being stingy toward the settlements, Perez said that the Defense Ministry already provides sufficiently for their security.
“You don’t have to use security to indirectly channel funds to the settlements,” he said in an Israel Radio interview. “The concept of ‘security’ is being used disingenuously, because the security establishment will not abandon the settlements.”
Perez said that the money would have been better spent providing equal opportunities for children in the periphery.
“I think this pours salt on the wounds of the weak, on the wounds of those who need every shekel,” he said.
Meanwhile, a sharp disagreement erupted in the cabinet regarding the transfer of funds to the Arab sector.
Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel requested a cabinet resolution mandating the transfer of money to the sector, while Tourism Minister Yair Levin and Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who formulated a plan to enforce construction regulations in Arab communities, said the funds should not be transferred until the plan to enforce them is in place. All three ministers are members of the Likud.
The cabinet approved the plan put forward by Levin and Elkin.
In December the government approved a five-year plan of involving some NIS 10 billion that would increase funding for housing, education, infrastructure, welfare services, public transport, and employment of women in the Arab sector.
Netanyahu said at the outset of Sunday’s meeting that the cabinet would “discuss a comprehensive plan to respond to the absence of law enforcement against planning and construction offenses in the Arab sector.
We have an interest in assisting Israel’s Arab citizens and we are doing so in very many areas, but completing the implementation of the plan will be done together with the completion of the necessary legislation vis-àvis enforcement regarding planning and construction in this sector.”