Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cabinet approves nat'l priority map that includes 40% of Non jewish residents too

(JPOST).The cabinet approved the national priorities map by 21 votes to five on Sunday.

A source in the Prime Minister's Office had said that the more than 120,000 residents of Judea and Samaria on the list represented only a small fraction of those impacted by the map.

Security is one of the primary reasons settlements are included within a national priority area, but those on the list are also slated to receive preferential governmental treatment and incentives for education, housing, infrastructure and employment.

At the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed that the aim of the plan was twofold.

"Some 40 percent of Israel's non-Jewish residents will be included in the plan, and we're trying to give them benefits in education,employment and infrastructure," he said, adding that the initiative would also give "real security "to Jewish residents living in those areas."

The map was last revised in 2002 under former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who placed all the settlements on the map. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was in the midst of redrawing the map in a way that would have excluded most of thesettlements, but was unable to complete the task before he left office.

The five Labor ministers voted against the map after Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak voiced his fierce opposition to the plan saying it "disproportionately represented" residents of isolatedsettlements and gives a " prize" for right-wing extremism.

"Labor's preference is the Galilee, Negev and periphery. Period," he had said. "The IDF safeguards the security of Israelis everywhere and will continue to do so in every situation. However, there are a number of small neighborhoods that are consistently a source of acts of extremism that harm the very fabric of life in Judea and Samaria."

Barak said he didn't believe such settlers should get the "prize of being included in the national priority map."

Reiterating that security forces would continue to protect all Israelis, the defense minister pointed out that the security situation in Judea and Samaria was better than it had been for many years.

The Labor ministers also discussed the map in their ministerial meeting before the cabinet session.

"The increase in the Arab population included in the map from eight percent to 40% is an important accomplishment, but as long as [Samariansettlements ] Itamar and Yitzhar are in, we will vote against the map," said a spokesman for minister-without-portfolio Avishay Braverman, who is responsible for the Israeli-Arab population.