West Bank settlements join Israel’s list of national priority communities

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Fifteen West Bank settlements were added to the list of communities approved by Israel’s Cabinet that are entitled to extra government benefits.

Some 90 settlements were among the 600 national priority communities on the list that was approved Sunday by a vote of 15-0 with four abstentions, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s lead negotiator in the revived peace talks with the Palestinians.  Four of the settlements were legalized this year.

Several communities in southern Israel that are home to former residents of the Gaza Strip’s Gush Katif also were approved.

The  communities on the list receive added benefits in housing, infrastructure, education, culture and security.

“There is one community that is always on our priority list, it is always above all of them, and that community, of course, is our capital, Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of the meeting, prior to the vote. “Jerusalem receives everything that priority list communities receive and more.”

Settlements on the list include Rehelim, Sansana and Bruchin, which were all legalized prior to the last national elections, as well as Nofim, Geva Binyamin, Ma’aleh Michmash and Elon Moreh.

“This is political, not national priority, which goes against efforts to promote peace,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz of Hatnua, another who abstained from the vote. “It’s unacceptable that struggling cities like Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi are out of the list because they’re close to the center, while settlements that were illegal not so long ago are added under the security threat clause.”

Several settlements were removed from the list, including the large haredi Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, as well as Efrat and Kedar.

 

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