'Settlements cannot receive automatic benefits'

Prime Minister rejects last week's cabinet decision; Likud MKs, residents: Decision sets a dangerous precedent.

Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost 311 (photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost 311
(photo credit: (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected on Monday all calls to reverse last week’s cabinet decision that barred 70 West Bank settlements on the “national priority” list from automatically receiving a new package of housing benefits.
At the Likud faction meeting Netanyahu acknowledged that the initial government vote last week that approved a new package of financial housing incentives for communities on the list had not been properly worded.
An additional line, which pertained to Judea and Samaria communities, had been “accidentally left out,” he said.
As a result, after the weekly meeting, cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser held a telephone vote to add in language, which stated that, “providing [housing] benefits to communities in Judea and Samaria will be subject to a political decision.”
In 2009, when the new priority list was drafted, Netanyahu’s government promised the US that although settlements remained on the list, they were not eligible for additional housing grants and incentives.
At that time, however, settlers believed that an exception would be made for approved projects. Now they fear they will never receive these incentives, even though the cabinet language allows the funds to be granted with special permission.
Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel, whose city was removed from the list in 2009, pleaded with Netanyahu at the faction meeting to grant equal treatment to West Bank settlements on the list.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) asked Netanyahu to verify what the bottom line was, but later told The Jerusalem Post that she found his answer confusing, in that he made all of last week’s events seem like a simple technical matter.
“We need to check what he meant,” she said.
Earlier in the Knesset, settlement leaders and right-wing politicians including Hotovely held an emergency meeting to discuss the matter.
But although they issued a number of harsh-sounding comments after the meeting, they fell short of presenting a concrete plan of action to pressure the government to rescind its decision.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said he feared that such steps against the settlements were trial balloons, to test the resolve of Judea and Samaria residents.
Ariel said that even if in the end, special exceptions are made for these communities, “we are talking about a further statement [against the settlements] in a series of statements that began with the Bar-Ilan speech [by Netanyahu in 2009].”
“These statements degrade the status of these communities and turn its residents into second class citizens,” Ariel added.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) warned that Netanyahu eventually planned to sacrifice the settlements.
Kashriel accused Likud MKs, excluding those in the room, of not doing enough to support the settlements. He added that they issue statements that sound strong but fail to follow through with action.
After the meeting, Karnei Shomron Council head Herzl Ben Ari said he found the meeting and the prime minister’s actions, “very painful.”
“People voted for Netanyahu because they believed he would support the Judea and Samaria communities,” he said. Instead Netanyahu is taking actions that harm them, and the discriminatory nature of this decision set a dangerous precedent, he added “The people who live in Karnei Shomron should have the same rights as those who live everywhere else in the country,” he said. “This leaves us very fearful.”