Israel invests at least 20 million dollars in settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government on Sunday authorized a special aid package to Israel's West Bank settlements, ostensibly to help them cope with extra costs related to the current security situation.

Ministers unanimously approved the package of more than 80 million Israeli shekels (20 million dollars), a cabinet statement said. 

Opposition lawmakers slammed the approval, with the opposition Labour Party calling it "outrageous" that tens of millions of shekels were being "funnelled" into settlements at a time that other struggling "periphery" towns within Israel proper were suffering from "criminal neglect."

The money will go to replacing mobile structures with permanent ones and strengthening public buildings to make them "more secure" and to counselling centres for victims of violence, but also to assisting small businesses and tourism projects, such as boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts, the detailed statement said. 

Most of the money is being set aside for 2016, but some for a three-year period that includes 2017 and 2018.

Netanyahu, ahead of the vote, told his cabinet the "assistance plan" would  strengthen security, assist small businesses and encourage tourism.

The international community regards Israel's West Bank settlements as illegal, because international law forbids the transfer of a state's population to occupied territory.

Israel denies that the West Bank is occupied, calling it "disputed territory" instead.

Some 550,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Palestinians have launched scores of knife and other attacks against Israelis, many of them in the West Bank, in a wave of violence that erupted in October.

More than 200 Palestinians - many of them knife attackers - and 33 Israelis have been killed in the violence, which broke out 18 months after the last peace negotiations collapsed. 

Last update: Sun, 19/06/2016 - 22:36

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