The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a NIS 6 million ($1.5 million) aid package for the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba to refurbish public areas and advance educational programming.
The funding boost, which will be drawn from the Housing Ministry budget, 10 days after 13-year-old Hallel Ariel was stabbed to death in her bed in Kiryat Arba, and as the government has sought to respond to terror by pushing settlement projects.
Some NIS 4.5 million ($1.1 million) will be used in 2016-2017 to renovate local buildings, public areas, and stairwells.
The remaining money will be funneled toward educational programming, the founding of a youth center, and other local community initiatives over the course of three years.
“It is our responsibility to empower the residents of Kiryat Arba and strengthen the local community, particularly at this time, days after the inconceivable murder of a girl in her sleep in the settlement,” said Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu).
The government approval appeared to be the first installment of a reported NIS 50 million ($12.8 million) plan for Jewish settlements in the West Bank city of Hebron and nearby Kiryat Arba.
Following Ariel’s murder, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would push through approval for 46 new homes in Kiryat Arba.
He and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also approved hundreds of new housing units in Ma’ale Adumim and East Jerusalem in response to the killings of Ariel and Rabbi Miki Mark in a drive-by shooting near Hebron a day later.
The State Department on Tuesday responded to the construction by accusing Israel of the systematic seizure of Palestinian land. In an unusually strongly worded statement, spokesman John Kirby said the reports of new building permits being issued called into question Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution.
“If it’s true, this report would be the latest step in what seems to be the systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalization of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution. We oppose steps like these which we believe are counterproductive,” Kirby said.
But Netanyahu brushed off Washington’s criticism of the plans on Wednesday.
“We’re familiar with the American position; we don’t accept it. Building in Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim is not, with all due respect, distancing peace,” Netanyahu said, speaking at a press conference in Kigali alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame. “What is preventing peace is the ongoing incitement against the existence of Israel within any borders, and it is time for the nations of the world to recognize that truth,” he said.