The Israeli cabinet is to vote on a proposal to list some Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as national priority zones and to grant them millions of dollars in credits. "I am certain that the government will approve this during today's vote," Eyal Gabai, a senior official with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, told army radio. The plan to be submitted to the cabinet today would include new settlements in the list of communities designated as national priority zones that are entitled to additional state funding.
The vote comes two weeks after a controversial decision not to grant new building permits for West Bank settlements for the next 10 months while allowing construction already under way to continue. The new credits would benefit 110,000 settlers, would be worth $41 million (Dh150.5m), and could be used for vocational training programmes and other educational or cultural activities. The communities being considered are mainly outside the large settlement blocs Israel wants to annex under any peace accord with the Palestinians.
"With this, we want to send a message (to the settlers) that we understand their difficulties and want to support them," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of Netanyahu's Likud party told public radio. The European Union on Friday expressed concern over the plan and said it would consult its partners in the Middle East Quartet over the move. The issue of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land is one of the thorniest in the stalled Middle East peace talks.