Israel OKs to funnel millions of dollars to settlements

The decision comes as a gang of Jewish assailants vandalised a West Bank mosque on Friday.

Israel OKs to funnel millions of dollars to settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet on Sunday approved millions of dollars of extra state funding in aid to Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank after extremist settlers attacked a mosque there.

The decision comes as a gang of Jewish assailants vandalised a West Bank mosque on Friday, torching its library and spraying hate messages in Hebrew in the northern West Bank's Yasuf village and just weeks after Israel instituted a 10-month moratorium on new building permits in the settlements after months of US pressure.

The attack destroyed copies of the Quran and carpets which were inside. One of the slogans sprayed on a wall read: "Get ready to pay the price." Another read: "We will burn you all."

The area is home to some of the most hardline settlers who advocate a "price tag" policy under which they attack Palestinians in retaliation for any Israeli government measure.

Israeli ministers voted 21 to 5 to approve a plan Netanyahu said would set "national, regional priorities" and offered incentives to areas home to nearly half of Israel's Arab population, in addition to peripheral towns and settlements.

The plan totals an estimated 2 billion shekels (about $530 million) to improve schools, jobs and infrastructure nationwide earmarks about five percent, 110 million shekels (about $30 million) for about 100 Jewish settlements, an official said.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close ally in Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party said on Israel Radio the added funds would show settlers that despite the freeze, Israel "also supports and reinforces" them.

However, an Israeli cabinet minister played down the statement, saying, the population of Jewish settlements in the West Bank could grow by 10,000 in the coming year despite a declared freeze on Israeli building in the occupied territory, admitting it is no real freeze.

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.

"Coordination with the Quartet I think is called for in view of the serious nature of such a move," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said on Friday.

"If I understand it rightly, it is a rather serious step," he said. "If that is the decision that will be taken by the Israeli government, we will most certainly express our views on it."

US actually bowed to Israel's refusal to stop settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. U.S. President Barack Obama himself called only for "restraint" in settlement, not the "freeze" he had previously demanded, a retreat from his policy.

The Palestinians demand a complete freeze on Jewish construction in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, which they want to be the capital of their promised state.

The roadmap calls on Israel to remove all outpost settlements erected after 2001 and to stop settlement expansion, but thus far Israel has not heeded US and international demands for a complete settlement freeze.

The World Court has ruled all settlements illegal under international law. Palestinians, who want their own state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, see the settlements as a land grab as an occupier "state".


Last Mod: 14 Aralık 2009, 12:15
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