Just weeks after the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli cabinet added settlements in the West Bank to a “national priority funding list”, a roster that qualifies the area for extra money from the state with benefits such as education and security. Palestinians see the decision as an obstacle to peace talks, Reuters reports. The areas are mostly near the Lebanon and Egyptian borders.
“We condemn this step,” Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters, accusing Israel of seeking to “put obstacles in the way of U.S.-backed (peace) efforts.”
Most of the international community considers the settlements built on the land captured in 1967 illegal, the Washington Post reports.
The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said the list approved Sunday increased the number of settlements eligible for subsidies from 85 to 91, virtually all in areas that Israel would probably have to evacuate to make way for a Palestinian state.
The move sparked much opposition. Anti-settlement group Peace Now claims that some of the settlements added to the list were built without government consent. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian peace talks team, said that the cabinet decision shows that Israel is not actually willing to do what it takes for peace, only that it wishes to put forth the appearance that it’s trying.
“This is exactly what Israel wants — have a process for its own sake and, at the same time, have a free hand to destroy the objective of the process,” she said. “This will have a destructive impact [on the talks], and it seems to me it’s up to the sponsors, the United States and the international community, to make Israel desist immediately.”
Certain settlements were removed from the list, like “the large Haredi Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, as well as Efrat and Kedar,” JTA reports.
The decision was reached on Sunday night by a vote of 15-0 with four abstentions.