70 W. Bank settlements on national priority list


Around 70 West Bank settlements were on the list of communities eligible for housing and development grants that the cabinet approved on Sunday.

Most of them – 57 – are settlements located outside the boundary of the security barrier’s planned route.

Israel has promised the international community that it would not provide special incentives for settlement development and construction.

Still, the settlements were included in the list of 557 “national priority” communities published by the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday.

An official who was in the cabinet meeting clarified that additional government approval was needed before the incentives could be granted to West Bank settlements.

“It won’t happen automatically,” the official said.

It was difficult to change the list for political reasons, the official said. “But it is clear that we are aware of the sensitivities when discussing communities over the Green Line,” the official added.

The list was created based on need, the official said. But its application in the West Bank will be in line with Israel’s diplomatic agenda, the official added.

Still, in its notice to the press, the Prime Minister’s Office did not mention limitations to the housing incentives, which include money for development costs of up to NIS 150,000 for agricultural communities and NIS 107,000 for cities. Supplementary housing loans of NIS 100,000 are also available.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, “The decision is designed to encourage positive migration to the communities and to assist in finding solutions to ease the housing situation. The decision will also contribute to economically strengthening these communities.”

The approval of the incentives comes as Palestinians are considering pulling out preliminary talks with Israel, which were held this month in Amman.

Although the government has not been willing to outline the borders of a two-state solution, it is widely understood that Israel would likely give up some of the isolated settlements that are now on the national priority list.

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said the continued presence of settlements on the list was proof that the government was still financially supporting settlements. She was particularly concerned that so many communities on the list were outside the planned route of the security barrier.

Many of these places have permits to build that they have not utilized, she said.

These kind of grants will help these settlements grow.

Peace Now in the past year has said that it noticed a trend of increased building in smaller settlements.

Jordan Valley Council head David Lahiani was thrilled to see that his communities were included in the list.

“It will help the Jordan Valley in a dramatic way,” he said. Already, he said, he is preparing to build 150 new homes.

The Jordan Valley has been among the divisive issues between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel has insisted that it must retain a military presence there, but its public statements with regard to the continued presence of settlements have been vague.

Lahiani said he has learned not to expect a “certificate of security” with respect to the valley’s future.

But, he said, when it comes to actions on the ground, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government has been supportive of the Jordan Valley.

No other government since that of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin has done as much for the Jordan Valley, Lahiani said.

Separately, at the Likud ministerial meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that he hoped that former Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy would head the outpost committee that he hoped to finally form this week.

The committee is expected to examine land status issues in the West Bank.

January 30, 2012 | 2 Comments »

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