Ma'aleh Adumim mayor decries being left off priority map

Maaleh Adumim mayor dec

Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel's lobbying efforts failed to persuade the government to include his settlement - the third largest in Judea and Samaria - on the national priorities map. On Sunday, the cabinet voted to include within the map 120,000 settlers who live in 86 out of the 121 settlements. Many of those settlements listed as a national priority are located outside the route of the security barrier. Security concerns are one of the primary reasons for inclusion in the map - and is certainly a reason his city should be on it, Kashriel argued. Communities on the map will get various benefits, such as preferential funding for education, employment, housing and infrastructure. Situated just outside of Jerusalem, and located some 4.5 kilometers over the pre-1967 line, Ma'aleh Adumim was initially slated to be included within the security barrier. Had this actually happened, said Kashriel, he might feel differently about its exclusion from the national priorities map. But last summer the state halted its plans to build that section of the barrier, and has not said when it intends to resume work. Sunday's vote is the second security blow suffered by the city, which many believe will be part of Israel in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians. It's likely that the interministerial exceptions committee, created on Sunday to weigh the inclusion of additional communities to the map, will consider adding in Ma'aleh Adumim. Kashriel said he plans to speak with the ministers in hopes of swaying them, even though his earlier attempts had failed. "It's a mistake," he told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday after the vote. His city, which is home to 34,000 people is located very close to a number of Palestinian villages, he said. Thousands of Palestinians travel by its entrance daily, said Kashriel, who added that NIS 7 million is spent from the municipal budget to make up for security that the government does not provide. Peace Now has argued that inclusion of any settlement on the map harms the peace process. But Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said that the government on Sunday had reduced the number of settlements on the national priority list. The last map, created by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2002, listed all the settlements, he said, adding that these communities are among the most vulnerable in Israel and deserve to be on the map.