Friday, December 11, 2009

PM Netanyahu plans to grant benefits to Isolated Settlements; U.S. not opposed

(INN,Haaretz).Two weeks after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rushed construction freeze decree, he announces new benefits for many settlements – as well as Arabs.

The new Map of National Priorities was released on Wednesday evening, for the perusal of Cabinet ministers before a government vote. The map specifies locations throughout Israel whose residents – a total of 26% of the national population – are to receive special benefits.

Many Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are included in the list, especially those whose residents received special “outlying area” benefits for years until being removed from the list under the Barak government a decade ago.

In addition, some 40% of Israel’s Arab population will receive the new benefits – compared with 8% in previous arrangements. Despite this, headlines in Ynet, Maariv-NRG and other news outlets emphasized only the perks given to “settlements.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to seek cabinet approval for a new map of "national priority" zones does not contradict Israel's declaration of a 10-month construction freeze in West Bank settlements, the prime minister's bureau assured senior United States administration officials late Thursday.

The new map would enable another 110,000 settlers - most of whom live outside the major settlement blocs - the economic benefits conferred on residents of zones already included on Israel's list.

Senior U.S. administration officials told Haaretz earlier Thursday that the prime minister's bureau had provided satisfactory explanations as long as the benefits plan was in keeping with the freeze and that money would not be transferred for new housing in the settlements.