Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni went head to head during the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday over approval of planned tax benefits for small communities that would also include settlements in the Jordan Valley.
The tax breaks were part of a national plan aimed at prioritizing some 300 communities in outlying areas of Israel. However, the parameters were drawn based on geographical boundaries that include 35 settlements in the Jordan Valley.
Livni, who heads the Hatnua faction, sought, and won, a delay on approval of the national plan until a debate had taken place on the inclusion of these settlements, expressing concern for a possible international backlash against support for West Bank communities.
“We [would be] encouraging an influx to settlements, and this decision, at this time, will influence our world standing and the peace negotiations,” argued Livni, who heads Israel’s negotiation team in peace talks with the Palestinians.
“We are talking about equal opportunity criteria,” Lapid replied. Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid party, insisted that the plan was for the benefit of Israel’s citizens regardless of where they lived, and said there was no reason for delaying approval.
Beneficiaries of the plan will include some 100 Arab communities inside Israel.
The cabinet agreed to delay authorization of the plan until next week.
The Jordan Valley is a key element of peace negotiations and one of its thorniest sticking points. Israel insists on maintaining a military presence along the border with Jordan as well as controlling border crossings, while the Palestinians are adamant that there will be no IDF units inside a future Palestinian state.