Israel’s Cabinet approves national priority communities, including West Bank settlements

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet voted to approve a new list of national priority communities, hundreds of towns and villages entitled to extra government benefits.

Some 15 additional West Bank settlements were added to the list, including four that were just legalized this year. Several communities in southern Israel that are home to former residents of Gaza’s Gush Katif also were approved to the list.


Some 90 settlements out of 600 communities appear on the list that was approved Sunday by a vote of 15 to 0 with four abstentions.

The Cabinet ministers that abstained are: Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, both of the Hatnuah Party; and Health Minister Yael German and Minister of Science and Technology Yaakov Peri both of the Yesh Atid Party.

“There is one community that is always on our priority list, it is always above all of them, and that community, of course, is our capital Jerusalem. Jerusalem receives everything that priority list communities receive and more. Therefore, whatever we decide today will apply to Jerusalem. Everything that stems from what we decide today will also apply to Jerusalem and more,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, prior to the vote.

The benefits communities on the list receive are in the areas of housing, infrastructure, education, culture and security.

“This is political, not national priority which goes against efforts to promote peace,” Peretz said. “It’s unacceptable that struggling cities like Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi are out of the list because they’re close to the center while settlements that were illegal not so long ago are added under the security threat clause,” Peretz said during the meeting.

Settlements on the list include Rehelim, Sansana and Bruchin, which were all legalized prior to the last national elections, as well as Nofim, Geva Binyamin, Ma’aleh Michmash and Elon Moreh.

Several settlements were removed from the list, including the large Haredi Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, as well as Efrat and Kedar.