The government approves a five-year, nearly NIS 3.2 billion ($843 million) plan for the development of East Jerusalem, after Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich froze the money in protest of funding for a college preparatory program for Arab students at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The plan will allocate money for infrastructure development, housing, healthcare and education, among other areas.
“This decision will change the face of Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says in a live statement after today’s cabinet meeting. “We are uniting Jerusalem.”
The plan’s implementation was held up for two months by Smotrich, who sought to reallocate NIS 200 million from the academic program, citing an alleged presence of “radical Islamic cells.”
Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, has also recently said he will not release another NIS 200 million aimed at development in Arab municipalities, claiming the cash will go to organized crime groups or be used to support terrorism. The funds — aimed at boosting the economy, upgrading infrastructure and fighting crime in Arab communities around the country — were approved by the previous government, which included the Islamist Ra’am party alongside left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties.
Arab municipal leaders have called a general strike for tomorrow to protest the funding freeze, with local authorities announcing today that they will hold a two-hour warning strike in solidarity.