Even as Israeli-Palestinian negotiators are to begin in two weeks and discuss, among other issues, the borders of a future Palestinian state, the cabinet on Sunday approved a new national priorities map that includes a number of small communities in Judea and Samaria beyond the security fence.
Among the new settlements that will be eligible for preferential grants because of security reasons are Rehalim, Bruchin and Sansana which until a few months ago were considered illegal settlement outposts. Other new settlements on the list are Elon Moreh, Geva Binyamin, Ma’ale Michmash, Eshkalot and Negahot.
At the same time, a number of settlements on the list in the past were removed, including the haredi commuity of Beitar Ilit, Efrat in Gush Etzion, and Kedar, near Ma’ale Adumim.
Hatnua ministers Tzipi Livni and Amir Peretz abstained in the vote on the new list, but spoke out against including small, isolated settlements on the list. Yesh Atid ministers Yael German and Yaakov Peri also abstained. Fifteen ministers voted in favor.
“This is a list of political, not national, preference, ” Peretz said. He also objected that Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat were left off the list because of their proximity to the center of the country.
A statement put out by Hatnua said that the party’s ministers abstained in the vote, rather than voted against, because it did include a number of communities that deserved preferential treatment for security reasons, such as communities near the border, or to bridge wide socio-economic gaps.
“I can understand that you put onto the list settlements in Judea and Samaria that are part of the major settlement blocks, and part of the areas that the government will remain in our hands,” said Peretz. “But I don’t think it is the time diplomatically or from a socio-economic point of view to include new settlements that until recently were illegal, and which is doubtful whether they will remain in Israel’s hand, and invest in them disproportionate sums.”
Construction and Housing Minister Ur Ariel (Bayit Yehudi), however, dismissed Peretz’ criticism, saying that the decision on which communities to include was made based on professional considerations.