Knesset advances bill to grant more funds to southern West Bank settlements

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

A general view shows houses in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, May 10, 2023. (Wisam Hashlamounn/ Flash90)
A general view shows houses in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, May 10, 2023. (Wisam Hashlamounn/ Flash90)

A bill defining a group of West Bank settlements as part of Israel’s Negev region passes a preliminary reading 52-37 in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.

If passed through all three readings further in the Knesset, Kiryat Arba and the settlements of the Har Hebron Regional Council will be eligible for funding from the Negev Development Authority, ending “years of discrimination and injustice against the settlers,” asserts Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech.

According to the legislation’s explanatory notes, the challenges of life in the periphery also apply to the specified settlements, which were excluded from the purview of the Negev Development Authority in the early 1990s due to the fact that they are located in the Palestinian territories.

“There is no reason for [the settlement communities] to be discriminated against just because it is in Judea and Samaria,” Har-Melech says, using the Biblical name for the areas which now comprise the West Bank.

Railing against the measure, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid declares that “the Negev is the Negev, Judea and Samaria is Judea and Samaria. Don’t invent a geography that doesn’t exist.”

Lapid accuses the bill’s backers of appropriating the budgets of towns harmed by the war, declaring that “the settlements have been stealing money from periphery communities for 50 years, and the Likud party has been silent.”

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