The Cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday approved a new list of municipal priorities that demonstrated it still very much backs the Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria, despite renewed US-driven negotiations with the Palestinians.
Those cities and towns on the list will receive special grants for development and additional tax breaks over the upcoming fiscal year. Newly included on the list are several small and even isolated Jewish settlements in areas claimed by the Palestinians.
To make room for the smaller settlements, a number of development towns in southern Israel and several of the larger and already prosperous settlements were removed from the list. The changes sparked controversy from both right- and left-wing parties in the ruling coalition.
Overall, of the 600 municipalities on the list, about 90 are beyond the "Green Line," or, in other words, situated on lands the world insists are "occupied."
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, who abstained from the vote, criticized the list as politically motivated, arguing that the newly added settlements cannot be construed as important to Israel's security interests.
The grants and tax breaks offered by this government program has helped many towns and communities to experience significant economic growth. As an example, over the weekend the Israeli bakery Achva announced plans to build a new USD $5-million factory in the Samarian settlement of Ariel, a move that will provide hundreds, and possibly thousands of jobs to local Jews and Arabs, alike.
Of course, the factory and everything produced there will be boycotted in Europe thanks to a new European Union directive forbidding member states to invest in or do business with "Jewish settlers."