WZO to spend NIS 20 m. on agriculture over green line
"No one is talking about drying out the settlements," Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman tells Post.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
The World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division plans to spend NIS 20 million in 2009 to assist agriculture in Jewish communities located over the Green Line. The sum was included in the overall budget report it presented to the cabinet on Sunday.
The decision to allocate one third of the Settlement Division's project budget to agricultural assistance for Judea and Samaria, particularly in the Jordan Valley, comes amidst US and international demands that Israel comply with its obligation to freeze settlement activity.
Israel, however, has insisted that normal life must be allowed to continue in the settlements.
A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, who controls the Settlement Division's budget, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that she believed the 2009 allocation was in line with government policy.
"No one is talking about drying out the settlements," she said. The allocation, she stated, is similar to what was provided for the settlements last year. But it is a sharp reduction from what was spent before the Settlement Division's budget was transferred to the Agriculture Ministry in 2007, when the bulk of the spending went to developing communities over the Green Line.
Now, she said, some NIS 40 million, or 60 percent of the project budget for settlement assistance, goes to the Negev and the Galilee.
But according to Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, Israel should not be investing in any settlement activity at this time as, she said, any such investment prevents a two-state solution.
Overall, Peace Now claims, more than NIS 1 billion has been earmarked in the government's 2009-2010 budget for settlement activity, including NIS 280 million for a section of Route 1, by the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement, as it heads down to the Dead Sea. Another NIS 159 million will be spent on infrastructure work around already completed apartments in the "07" neighborhood of Ma'aleh Adumim.
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